FORT SILL, Okla.--Many people have suffered from a headache of one form or another. Most headaches are mild and can me eliminated with over-the-counter painkillers. Some are much more severe and can be debilitating.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, Migraines are an inherited neurological disorder that can be triggered by a variety of stimuli such as alcohol, menstruation, fragrances or light or even become active spontaneously.

"Many different people suffer from headaches," said Daren Lebeau, Reynolds Army Community Hospital staff neurologist. "Headaches are pretty significant among Soldiers."

A migraine attack often begins with severe fatigue, increased urination, yawning, neck pain or sensitivity to light, sound and odor.

The headache stage of a migraine can often be moderate to severe in intensity. It can be extremely disabling to some sufferers.

"Thirty-six million people in the U.S. suffer from migraines," said Lebeau. "That is 12 percent of the population. Migraines annually cost the United States $20 billion. Costs are attributed to doctor's visits, medications, missed work and lost productivity."

The World Health Organization places migraine as one of the top 20 most disabling disorders on the planet. Chronic migraines are even more disabling, according to the World Health Organization.

"A typical migraine can last four to 72 hours," explained Lebeau. "It is a brain phenomena caused by hyper excited brain neurons."

A migraine is three times more likely to occur in women than men and affects 30 percent of women over a lifetime. Although migraines are more common between the ages of 30 and 70, children and the elderly are not exempt from having them.

Even though most people who suffer from migraines have no more than a few attacks a month, 3 percent of the population have chronic migraine which indicates the presence of at least 15 days of headache each month for at least six months.

Migraines not only affect the person suffering from them, but also friends and family members.

"The worst thing that I have dealt with since beginning to have migraines is the prevented participation with my children," said Mary Kay Young, licensed practical nurse. "When I get a migraine, I usually don't want to go anywhere or do anything. The noise and the sound and the lights can make the headache that much more severe. One thing that I learned is that people who frequently suffer from headaches may not realize that it isn't normal to have a recurring headache. I would suffer through headaches sometimes five times a month. It took a while for me to realize it wasn't normal.

"I would avoid crowded places and sometimes playing with my kids. The headaches make daily activities so much worse. I now realize that if I take my medicine at the beginning of an onset, I can prevent them or eliminate the severity of them."

There are many ways to naturally prevent or reduce your risk of suffering from a migraine.
"To stay headache-free, you really need to sleep regularly," said Lebeau. "You need to exercise, drink enough water and not drink too much caffeine. When you are suffering from a migraine, a few over-the-counter medicines may help like Excedrin Migraine, Aleve or aspirin. But you must know that a rebound headache can result from too much over-the-counter medicine."

"Stress and sleep deprivation are major triggers for me," said Young. "And I have been a migraine sufferer for 15 years."

Many people who experience migraines find that they are hereditary. Sometimes people develop them after a head trauma and sometimes they are completely sporadic.

If you or someone you know suffers from migraines, the neurology department at Reynolds Army Community Hospital would like to know if you are interested in a support group. Contact the department at 580-558-2246.

Page last updated Thu June 24th, 2010 at 12:23