Wednesday, August 17, 2005

"The Topamax Experiment" (or "Good-bye Migraines")

Today, I begin a new treatment for my chronic migraine headaches. I'm going to start taking migraine preventative Topamax, which doctors say can really change the life of someone who gets chronic migraines. I'm also going to try Relpax and/or Axert to stop headaches when I do get them. These medications, if they work, will replace my latest regime of Inderal and Excedrin.

I've had migraines almost all my life. Since I was about seven years old, I think. My mother took me to several doctors, including a very good neurologist who diagnosed the condition as migraine. Previous doctors thought it might be eye strain or some other such thing. I suppose they thought it was unusual for a seven-year-old to suffer from migraines.

Just to make sure it wasn't something more serious, like a tumor or whatnot, the docs gave me a CAT scan, EEG, MRI, and even a spinal tap. All normal. Just plain ol' migraines.

Over the years, I tried several different medications -- Fiornal, Inderal, Midrin... I think I tried Migranol, Imitrex... There was some tiny blue pill in the late '70s or early '80s... I think it was shaped like a hexagon and the name started with an "m". Some were medications that end a headache once it starts. Others were "prophylactics" -- medications that prevent the onset of migraine. Some of these drugs seemed to work for a while. But none provided great relief or long-term substantial decreases in the frequency and/or intensity of the migraines.

The frequency and intensity has varied a lot over the years. Lately, it's been about 20 moderate migraines per month. Pretty annoying. They really make it difficult to function normally. As any migraineur knows, it's pretty hard to act normal or put together coherent sentences or tolerate sound and light during a migraine. But, I long ago realized that I cannot afford to use "sick days" every time I get a migraine. Of course, every now and then I get one that incapacitating and I don't have any choice but to lie in bed in a cool, dark, quiet room and deal with it. Fortunately, the really severe headaches only happen a few times per year for me.

I went through some biofeedback training also. That was really interesting and did seem to help a bit in keeping me relaxed and calm -- even during a migraine. It also taught me that my brain and body react unusually quickly to sensory triggers or emotional triggers. My EGR response was particularly rapid and strong, for what it's worth.

Now, I'm ready to try the next cool migraine drug to get these headaches under control. People who take large doses of Topamax, like 250 mg. per day, sometimes have strange side effects, like having trouble finding the right words when speaking, or experiencing jamais-vue or presque-vue. Some people say they look at items on their desk and it absolutely feels like things have been moved around, even though nobody has touched a thing. Like I said -- strange. But, I'm starting with a very small dose of 25 mg. per day. I'll increase it, on a gradual schedule, until it seems to have the desired effect. I'll try to post something here each day to report the progress.

1 comment:

Kerrie said...

Good luck with Topamax. The side effects often disappear after a couple months, but lots of people get so frustrated with them that they stop taking it before then.

Take care.

-Kerrie