Migraine Headaches – 3rd of a Series:
“Classical Migraines: Fact or Fiction?”
Almost every article you read about migraine headaches mentions something called the “classical migraine.” But how many people really have this “classical” condition?
Migraines are typically divided into two major categories: Classical and common.
Classical migraine headaches typically start with an “aura” lasting 10 minutes to an hour before the headache itself begins.
The aura frequently is a sensation of flashing lights, blind spots, visual zig zag lines, tingling or even numbness. Other classic symptoms may include confusion, slurred speech or weakness in an arm or leg. (Please see our previous article: “The Migraine Aura – Tricks From The Brain” for more information.)
Common migraine headaches are not preceded by an aura. These headaches generally just arrive without warning. They may start off with just a mild pain, but then quickly intensify over a matter of minutes. But the headache in a common migraine can be just as painful as the classical variety - regardless of whether the sufferer had an aura or not.
How Common Are Migraines?
Depending on whose statistics you use, migraine headaches are found in about 10% of the population. Since women officially have three times more incidences of headaches than men, the number of females experiencing migraines approaches18%. As women approach the age of 35, the peak incidence of migraines increases to nearly 35% - nearly one in three!
These figures are consistent worldwide – and not just limited to the United States.
Earlier studies raised the issue that Asians experience far few migraines than Westerners. However, recent surveys seem to refute this finding. This is interesting – because it would seem to indicate that migraines are a universal human condition and not cultural or developmental phenomena.
It’s also estimated another 5% of the worldwide population have migraine headaches but don’t know it! These people have either incorrectly self-diagnosed their condition - or had their pain misdiagnosed as tension or sinus headaches.
Of all the people who experience migraine headaches, properly diagnosed or not, about 20% are supposed to have the “classical” aura type of migraine.
Migraines Much More Common Than Realized
In real practice however, my observations have shown migraine headaches are much more common in the general population than formerly reported. Twice as many women as previously thought, about 1 in 5, will experience at least one migraine in their life. But of those women, very few of them experience an aura.
Furthermore, official statistics indicate that 60-70% of women experience “hormonal” headaches - headaches based on their monthly cycle.
Again, my actual experience is that far more women experience migraine headaches to menstrual cycle changes than officially recognized. In all likelihood, this is due to external stimuli affecting the body – such as birth control pills and certain prescription medications.
Migraine Headaches Swelling Worldwide
What’s even worse, migraine headaches seem to be increasing worldwide, especially over the last 50 years, and particularly in women. Preliminary observations indicate that virtually every family in America has at least one female member experiencing migraine headaches.
The Centers for Disease Control reported a 60-percent increase in the incidence of migraine headaches from 1980 to 1989. A Mayo Clinic study released in 1999 showed similar findings where migraine headaches in women increased 56 percent during the 1980s while the incidence of migraine headaches in men increased 34 percent during the same period.
The clinic’s author speculated the reasons were four-fold:
- “Stress “
- A rise in the number of single-parent households
- An increase in the number of women in the workforce
- An increase in women who are dieting for weight loss
With all due respects to the Mayo Clinic, the Women’s Health Institute of Texas believes in alternate explanations for the increasing incidence of migraines:
- Increased use of birth control pills since 1960
- Progressive exposure to “xenoestrogens” over the last 50 years
- Worsening dietary habits over the last 25 years
All three reasons certainly account for the disturbing uptrend in women’s migraines. The last two reasons apply to men just as well as to women. The entire population is being exposed to high levels of xenoestrogens, and the dietary habits of both men and women have progressively declined - as evidenced by the ever-rising numbers in obesity.
What are Xenoestrogens?
Xenoestrogens are chemicals exhibiting estrogen-like activity. “Xeno” means foreign, so xenoestrogen simply means “a foreign estrogen.” There are tens of thousands of chemicals that exert hormonal effects, with xenoestrogens exerting estrogenic effects.
Examples of xenoestrogens include pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables, hormone additives to grain fed beef and “gas off” from plastic water bottles.
Too much exposure to estrogen can cause numerous medical difficulties, manifesting as a myriad of “female” problems in women. These range from PMS to uterine fibroids to breast cancer. In men, these can range from gynecomastia (development of breast tissue) to prostate cancer.
Incidentally, this problem doesn’t just involve humans. A recent article in “The Week” magazine cites estrogen-like contaminants being responsible for male fish in Maryland’s Potomac River actually carrying eggs! What used to be a one in a million abnormality now affects 80% of the smallmouth bass population.
Migraine Cure is a Reality
Whether classical migraines are under or over-reported, the Women’s Health Institute of Texas believes there’s a better way to combat migraine headaches – by eliminating them altogether.
Recent reports indicate migraine headaches can indeed be totally abolished – as a number of elite medical clinics catering to women have testified. Under their treatment protocols, migraines are completely eradicated in 80% of their patients.
These successes are limited to women only, as addressing a women’s hormones is the basis of the cure. Some clinics have published their methods and even made them available to the public.
About the Author: Dr. Andrew P. Jones, M.D. is the Medical Director for the Women’s Health Institute of Texas. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and by the American Academy of Biologically Identical Hormone Therapy.
His medical experience primarily revolves around the relationship of women’s health issues and bio-identical hormone management of PMS, menopause and migraine headaches.
Find out more about Dr. Jones and the cure for migraine headaches
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View next migraine headache article to understand more... Article No. 4