KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Most of us have had a headache in our lives, many of us have even had a migraine - in fact, migraines and headache disorders are among the most common illnesses in the world.
However, chronic migraines, 15 or more headaches a month, only affect 1.7 to 4 percent of the world’s population, according to the World Health Organization.
One local teenager is one of those who suffers from chronic migraines. She’s sharing her story on how she’s learned to cope. Sarah Komar is just finishing up her senior year of at Park Hill South High School and preparing for college, despite having missed many of her classes over the years.
“I miss school a lot, pretty often, but luckily I have really good teachers, and a good counselor,” said Komar. “You can’t just pop some ibuprofen and be fine in an hour,”
Her migraines are debilitating, as neurologist Dr. Charles Weinstein at St. Luke’s says is common for chronic migraine sufferers.
“Their lives are terrible, they have terrible quality of life, and often long periods of impairment, because of the headaches, the nausea the vomiting,” said Dr. Weinstein.
He says many people have migraines and don’t even know it.
“People who have regular headaches actually have low intensity migraine.”
Migraines are difficult to diagnose.
“There are no positive tests, the diagnosis is subjective, and many people are able to treat their disorder with over the counter drugs,” said Dr. Weinstein. “On testing, scans, physical exam, even during a severe headache are generally normal,”
A difficult diagnosis leads to a misunderstanding of the illness. Doctors know migraines are an inherited neurochemical disorder, but many other aspects are a mystery.
There are remedies to prevent some migraines and treat the pain, but no cure. For many sufferers, migraines can be triggered by menstrual cycles, alcohol, or foods, and so on. For Komar, migraines are often triggered by stress - so talk therapy to relieve anxiety helped.
“My anxiety and the stress that was causing me to get the migraines, was something that was left untreated, and I hadn’t gotten the help I needed, and there’s no shame in getting the help you need,” she said.
And as she looks forward to her future in the honors program at college, she knows she can’t dwell on the hardships she may face because of her illness because it’ll only make it worse.
“Wallowing in it, is only going to make me more depressed,” she said.
Dr. Weinstein says there is a new treatment being developed. It’s an I.V. that would be administered monthly in an effort to prevent migraines. He says it could be available in some cases in the next year.