Mar 25, 2009

Pulling out the big guns...

My neurologist has prescribed Topamax for me to take as a preventive treatment for my migraines. This is not the first preventive treatment I have been on. In 2004 I took my birth control pills nonstop to eliminate the number of migraines I was getting. Since I had menstrual migraines and was getting debilitating headaches during the "off week" from the pill, this made the most sense. It worked for a while, but after 4 straight months, my body just felt...icky and I had to take a break. As soon as I stopped, I was hammered by a 3-day migraine.

In 2005-2006, my neurologist prescribed me a triptan, but had me take it every day for a week (during the off week). My doctor was a top neurologist in Chicago and while the medication was FDA approved, this course of treatment was not, but was something he had been researching. Did it work? Eh. Sort of, but not enough to make him keep me on this plan.

In 2007 he prescribed me nortriptyline (an old-school antidepressant) which is supposed to help prevent migraines. No such luck, but I did get some of the best sleep of my life. The next class of preventive treatments are beta-blockers. Unfortunately, due to my asthma, these are off-limits since they can aggravate the situation.

This brings us to the final preventive treatment available. Anti-seizure medications. This is Topamax. My neurologist in Chicago mentioned this to me over the past few years, and we've agreed that this would be my last resort. He called it "pulling out the big guns." Antidepressants? No problem. I've actually been on those for depression, so I wasn't worried about taking them. But anti-seizure meds scare the crap out of me. It's big-time medication and the potential side effects are scary. There's the usual loss of appetite (although weight loss can be quite significant), fatigue, change in taste (especially carbonated beverages), etc. Not too much to worry about there, but then there are those other side effects - the ones that really freak me out. Tingling/numbing in fingers and toes and sometimes the face. Short-term memory issues. The inability to find the right words in conversations. Losing your train of thought. Misspelling very familiar words. Slurring of speech. Stuttering. {And don't think I'm freaking out unnecessarily - the concentration/focus/memory issues strike approximately 40% of patients}

I'm starting this medication tonight and I'm scared. So scared. I know that this could help me with my migraines, which have grown out of control since I had Griffin (hormones combined with the lack of sleep and additional stress have been kicking my ass for the last 8 months). My new doctor said that I should stay open to trying Topamax - he'd hate to see me suffer like this and not even give it a try. So that's what I'm doing.

I've always said if you don't go in, you can't find out, but holy crap I'm scared.

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