After an intense headache cost tennis star Serena Williams a tournament match, she learned her pain was related to her menstrual cycle. "I'd never heard of [menstrual migraines] before," she says. "All this time, I thought it was a regular migraine." About 60% of women with migraines say it gets worse during their periods, and hormones may be to blame. Your doctor may suggest medicines to even out your hormone levels.
Mostly women get migraines, but about 6% of men get them too. Actor and director Ben Affleck is among those who have been slowed down by migraine pain. While directing Gone, Baby, Gone in 2006, he had a migraine so bad it sent him to the hospital. "I just kept on going and going and hardly slept," Affleck says. A regular sleep schedule helps prevent migraines. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
Childhood trips to Disneyland usually bring on smiles. For actress Lisa Kudrow, "A day of excitement and eating would always end in a horrible headache," she says. Kudrow's father and siblings were also familiar with migraine pain. Migraines run in families. Children have a 50%-75% chance of having migraines if their parents do. Knowing your family history of migraines may help your doctor know how to treat you.
Actress Marcia Cross seemed unstoppable as perfectionist Bree Van de Kamp on the TV show Desperate Housewives. Off camera, she struggles with migraines. "Having a migraine and trying to work was impossible for me," she says. "I became nauseous and my vision was affected." Cross has been a spokeswoman for a triptan migraine medicine. Triptans reduce migraine pain and nausea by narrowing blood vessels.
In 2008, singer Janet Jackson canceled a string of concerts after suffering from vestibular migraines. This type of migraine gives you vertigo -- a feeling like the room is spinning. Bright lights and loud sounds may also bother you. About 30% of people with migraines also feel dizziness or vertigo. Vestibular migraines are treated like other migraines, with medicines and by avoiding headache triggers.
Actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth nursed a migraine after winning an Emmy in 2009. Then her doctor suggested Botox. "I haven't had a full-blown headache since," she says. Botox is approved for people who have 15 or more migraines a month, but it may not completely cure you. Studies suggest that Botox offers only modest headache relief.
When Grammy winner Carly Simon crooned, "I haven't got time for the pain," she wasn't referring to migraines. But she could have been. Simon has made a lot of lifestyle changes to prevent headaches. "I don't smoke, I sleep for eight hours, and coffee is not a part of my life," Simon says. She also avoids alcohol, a common trigger for some people. Red wine, in particular, seems to set off migraines.
Cindy McCain has described her migraine pain as torture. "It feels like someone swung an axe and hit me in the forehead," she says of one of her headaches. The attacks were especially bad during Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign in 2008. The bright lights from cameras often triggered headaches. "Sunglasses are a migraine sufferer's best friend," Cindy McCain says.
Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman started having headaches when he was a boy. "When you make a living getting hit, almost everyone has a headache, so it's not something that's much talked about," Aikman says. Constant travel and missed sleep made them worse. Migraine triggers vary among people, but travel can disrupt your regular routine and lead to migraines. Even weather changes and motion sickness can trigger them.
To fend off migraines while working under bright lights, model Elle Macpherson prefers an overall health approach. "I have acupuncture regularly," she says. A 2009 review of 22 acupuncture studies found that people who used it as well as medicine had fewer headaches. Others who used it instead of medicine got more relief from migraines than those who used medicine. Acupuncture may improve mood and sleep and reduce triggers like anxiety.
Head pain sidelined former Denver Bronco Terrell Davis during the 1998 Super Bowl. "I was seeing double and triple," he says. After taking medicine, Davis scored a touchdown and was named the game's MVP. When he first started having migraines, Davis didn't tell anyone. "I thought people would think I was crazy," he says. Now, he avoids foods that may trigger migraines, like chocolate, caffeine, and the food additive MSG.
Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar blames stress for his recurring head pain. Stress can cause muscles in the neck and scalp to contract, leading to tension headaches and migraines. Since his first migraine at age 14, Abdul-Jabbar has used a variety of stress relievers, including yoga, acupuncture, massage, and biofeedback. "You can't eliminate stress, but what I've finally been able to do is learn how to manage it," he says.
Congresswoman Michele Bachmann addressed her migraines while she was on the presidential campaign trail in 2011. She said the migraines were "easily manageable with medication," and that they don't keep her from doing her job. Many people with migraines eventually get one on the job. It's important to follow your doctor's advice to help prevent and treat your migraines.
You may remember Susan Olsen as pigtailed Cindy Brady on "The Brady Bunch." Since her "Brady" days, she's spoken publicly about her migraines. "When I suffered my first migraine [at age 11], my doctor kissed me on the forehead and told me I was too conscientious," recalls Olsen. She takes triptans to keep her migraines in check. As many as 10% of children 15 and under have been affected by migraines. More than half will continue to have them as adults too.
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Merle Diamond, MD, president and managing director, Diamond Headache Clinic, Chicago
Audrey Halpern, MD, director, Manhattan Center for Headache and Neurology, New York City
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Internet Movie Database
Journal of American Medical Association
Linde K., et al. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 1
National Center for Biotechnology Information
National Headache Foundation
Paul Rizzoli, MD, neurologist, John R. Graham Headache Center, Faulkner Hospital, Boston; co-author, The Migraine Solution
Stanford Headache Clinic
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