by Nesreen Suwan, M.D.
Migraine is a common neurological disorder of a genetic origin that is caused by a sensitized nervous system. Approximately 30 million Americans are affected, more often women than men. It was found that the incidence of migraines is equal between males and females before the onset of menstruation in females; and it triples in females compared to males after puberty.
Migraines peak between the ages of 25-50, but it may start affecting populations in their teens. The well-being of many teenagers had been affected significantly by migraines, which are typically disabling and may cause loss of school days and the inability to do homework.
Migraines could be very debilitating. It is very hard for a student who sufferers from migraines to juggle school, homework, volunteer work, sports and a social life when all that he or she thinks about is how to deal with migraines.
Teenagers face endless challenges at high school. They are usually overloaded with lots of material and work which needs to be covered in a short period of time. They may suffer from significant sleep deprivation, inappropriate intake of stimulants (like caffeine) to help them stay awake, in addition to poor eating habits. Added to this, the competition in high school is tremendous.
All these stresses could affect the nervous system in susceptible individuals resulting in migraines. Consequently, teenagers may miss many school days. This may lead to progressive deterioration in academic achievement, which in turn may cause more stress, anxiety and worsening of migraines as well. As such, a never-ending vicious circle could start, and teenagers may lose control of their lives.
An appropriate action needs to be taken immediately. This is obtained by reaching the accurate diagnosis. This is the key for the appropriate management, which include multiple modalities such as medications, which may specifically target the migraine and its associated symptoms in a timely manner.
Unfortunately, many migraines are misdiagnosed by patients, parents or physicians as sinus or tension headaches, leading to incorrect and ineffectual treatment plans. Other migraine headaches are medicated either by patients, parents or physicians with over-the-counter analgesics overuse. This may result in resistant rebound headaches and worsening of future migraines as well.
Some parents accept the lives of their children with the uncontrolled migraines, and think that these headaches are supposed to be part of the lives of their teenagers. On the other hand, some teenage migraine sufferers or their parents have misconceptions about satisfactory migraine control, and think that it is taking a pill and going to sleep in a dark quiet room. This is totally untrue.
The truth about satisfactory migraine control is that migraine sufferers should be in control of their lives, and they should not accept migraines to control or interrupt their academic achievements. Satisfactory migraine control means that migraines should be conquered, and the school days should be captured. The teenager should be able to do their responsibilities, and to enjoy their well-being.
As such, when migraines start, daily activities should not be held off, and the day does not have to end. Based on the fact that migraine is a neurological disorder that involves changes in the brain and its vessels, it should be treated with migraine specific medication, under the care of a specialist. If your son or daughter is a migraine sufferer, you do not have to drive long distances for a specialty headache clini, get them help today.
Nesreen Suwan, MD is a headache and fibromyalgia specialist, Loyola-Trained Neurologist, American Board Certified in Neurology, Pain Medicine with additional certification in Headache Medicine. Dr.Suwan has just moved to a new location at 2867 Ogden in Lisle. For more information, call (630) 420 8080 or visit
Attention Parents! Battling Migraines in Kids
As Featured In Glancer Magazine, October 2010