Saturday, March 28, 2009

Thank you, United Healthcare

This post is in reference to THIS post, where I explained that my health insurance, United Healthcare, decided not to cover my echocardiogram (to see if my heart had an abnormalty that was giving me headaches), after they had initially said they would cover it.

My awesome neurologist, Dr. Matthews at the NC Comprehensive Headache Clinic, who I'm not seeing right now because I'm seeing a new neuro at UNC Healthcare, submitted an appeal for me with all of my health records. In addition, I submitted my own appeal to United Healthcare.

Today I received a letter from United Healthcare saying that after reviewing the appeal, they decided they WILL cover the echocardiogram. WOOT!

I just wanted to say thank you, United Healthcare. You guys have been covering a lot of my bills lately, from my sleep study, prescriptions, etc. and I'm blessed to have health insurance so that I can continue to fight my headaches.

Also, I wanted to let patients reading this know that if this happens to you, SUBMIT AN APPEAL. Submit three if you have to. It's worth the try!!!


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Migraine of the Year, other updates

I wanted to post a few updates. Last weekend, I had what I'm calling the Migraine of the Year. Wow, it was awful. It started last week - I had a headache just about every day, but it went away on Friday. So that night, I went out with some friends for drinks while my husband was chaperoning a church youth group lock-in. My hubby doesn't know this, but I drank and tall glass of beer. I normally don't drink and don't approve of drinking, and neither does my hubby, for various reasons that would take too long to get into, but over the past few years I've had maybe 4 drinks a year. I don't know if that triggered it, but on Saturday I woke up with a migraine...not a headache...a migraine - pounding, throbbing head with every movement, light sensitivity, etc. I took Butalbital (which my neuro wants me to try and stop taking because it can cause rebound headaches) because it's my go-to migraine drug. (Side note - I didn't try Imitrex (the generic version) because I took that a week before and it didn't help and I hate how it makes my throat all tight.) It worked for a few hours but later that afternoon, it came back full force. I took another Butalbital, and it brought my migraine down just a notch. So after a few hours I decided to take my backup: supposedly emergency-room-equivalent drugs that my new neuro gave me - the ones so strong I can't take them more than twice a month: Ketorolac (Toradol), Promethazine (Phenergan), and Seroquel. That knocked me out for the night, and I was too dizzy the next morning to get up for church, so I slept most of the morning. My migraine was gone when I woke up, but then it returned after taking a nap that I couldn't avoid later that evening. Then I had a slight migraine Monday and I felt like I had been in a car accident or been beaten up. I've heard the post-migraine feeling referred to as the migraine hangover. Now I only have a slight headache. It was SO awful, and I am terrified I'll have another migraine and won't have anything to take to get rid of it. I'd rather have headaches every day than migraines like that. I'm never drinking more than a few sips of alcohol from now on, in case that was the trigger.

Of course, I've been spotting more than a month, ever since I started the Nuva Ring, which I'm taking 12 weeks straight with no breaks for periods, so that might have something to do with it also. Could be hormonal.

Needless to say, I'm dying to see my neurologist next week. I'll get my sleep test and blood test results back. And speaking of test results, my previous blood tests to check for Factor V Leiden and hormonal problems came back normal.

Two quick news updates:

Check out this article on migraines - it actually mentions some things I haven't heard of that I might need to look into further.

Also, if you live in Michigan, I received a news release announcing neurologist and headache specialist Dr. Henry Hooker has joined the team of experts at the Michigan Head•Pain & Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor. Dr. Hooker will have a special focus on one of the most challenging head pain conditions – New Daily Persistent Headache. According to the release, New Daily Persistent Headache is unique in that the headache occurs daily from onset, typically in a patient with no prior history. It can continue for years without any sign of alleviation despite aggressive treatment. Various causes are suspected, including viral, metabolic, and neurotransmitter (brain chemical) disturbances.

I think that's it for now...I'll keep an eye out for the Today Show segment (see post below) and will post a link if it's online.

Have a wonderful, headache-free day and remember to take things one day at a time!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Headache Questions for the Today Show

My co-worker just told me about a Tweet she received from the Today Show (@todayshow if you're on Twitter) guiding headache sufferers to this Web site:

Do you suffer from headaches? E-mail us

Description: Are your days consumed with pounding headaches? Do you have questions on treatment or how to prevent them? If so, then e-mail us and Dr. Nancy Snyderman may answer them live on the TODAY show.

Wow, I have so many questions to ask. But I narrowed it down to one, which I've included below. Feel free to ask your own. And let me know if you find out when the segment airs!

My question:

I have been diagnosed with chronic daily headache and chronic migraine and am on my fifth neurologist. I'm convinced the headaches are hormonal related, and yet my neuros keep putting me on hormonal birth control (pills, patch, IUD, and now the Nuva Ring) with no break for periods to level my hormones. This always makes my headaches worse. If they are hormone related, what's another option to treat my headaches?

I'd love to know when this segment will air. Thanks!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Headaches and Water – The Fluid Connection

Honestly, I've had headaches all week and just finished writing a company newsletter and some press releases at work, so I'm a little tired of writing. So, the timing is perfect that I have the opportunity to introduce my first guest post! The writer, Holly McCarthy, is a freelance writer. Thanks for the contribution, Holly!


Headaches and Water – The Fluid Connection

If you’ve never had a headache in your life, count yourself really lucky, because when one does come on, you literally feel like ripping your head off and putting it aside for just a little while. A headache is not like any other ailment – for one, it’s pretty hard to do anything else when you head feels like it’s about to split into a million pieces; and for another, medication tends to complicate the problem when your headache comes on for no apparent reason. So, if you’ve been suffering from this beastly ailment more often than you care to, you need to take a look at your relationship with water.

Water, you say? Yes, this pure liquid that is indispensable for the continuation of life is also important when you’re trying to keep a headache away. When your body is dehydrated, you’re likely to suffer from a headache. You’re also likely to be stressed out for inexplicable reasons, and because of this, are liable to more headaches. Dehydration is a disadvantage in more ways than one though – it affects your ability to think, and when compounded with a headache, well, you understand the point I’m trying to make.

On an average, an adult requires at least 8 glasses of water every day to stay healthy. Other liquids do not count towards this requirement, especially when they contain sugar or caffeine, because both these substances are diuretics and cause dehydration (and this makes colas pack a double whammy). You must drink water, and only water, although fruit juices that do not contain sugar or other condiments are ok because they bring you the natural vitamins and nutrients that fruits are rich in.

Spending a lot of time in air conditioned offices and rooms can also bring on dehydration as does not drinking enough water. You’re also at risk if your work involves a lot of travel or if you use electromagnetic devices like computers and mobile phones pretty often. Remember, you need to drink water even though you’re not thirsty, because thirst itself is the first sign of dehydration.

So the next time you feel a headache coming on, before you pop a pill or start tearing your hair out in frustration, drink a few glasses of water! You may have just found the perfect cure to an imperfect ailment.


This post was contributed by Holly McCarthy, who writes on the subject of the sports management college. She invites your feedback at hollymccarthy12 at gmail dot com.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Sleep and Headaches

My new neurologist did a study with her patients a few years ago that related sleep and headaches.

I have fairly good sleep habits, but I'm always tired, so my neuro had me get a sleep test, which I had done at a hospital Monday night and all day Tuesday. As you can see, I was all hooked up with glue and tape, and I also had a tube put under my nose and straps around my chest and abdomen to monitor breathing. It was a neat experience. I woke up a lot throughout the night, but overall I slept ok. The nap study the next day was horrible. I was supposed to take five naps at two-hour intervals; however, they only gave me 20 minutes to fall asleep, and if I didn't sleep, they'd make me get out of bed and I'd wait two hours for the next one. I couldn't sleep for a single nap. I was there until 7 p.m. and it felt like a big waste of time. But the technician said the fact that I couldn't sleep gave them results too and I shouldn't feel bad. I won't get results until my appointment with my neuro at the end of the month.

Here are some sleep instructions that my neuro gave me. I wish I could say I've been following all of them, but it's harder than it seems. I'm going to try to do better.

- Set regular hours for sleep that do not vary significantly from weekday to weekend and allow for 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep (9-10 hrs for adolescents).

- Avoid caffeine within 8 hours of bedtime.

- Completely avoid watching TV or reading in bed.

- Do not lie down (in bed, or a couch etc.) to read or watch TV during the day.

- To reduce the need to get up to urinate at night, be sure supper is at least 4 hours before bedtime and limit liquids within 2 hours of bedtime.

- Discontinue all naps.

- If you have problems with environmental noise, use earplugs or a white-noise generator.

- Do not sleep with pets or children.

- If you have known indoor allergens, keep them out of the bedroom (such as pet dander, feathers, dust on ceiling fans, etc.).

- No snoozing on your alarm. When the alarm goes off in the morning, turn it off and get up (I have yet to succeed at this...).

If you have a sleeping partner, ask your partner if you snore, have pauses in your breathing, kick or twitch in your sleep, grind your teeth, talk in your sleep, or sleep-walk. (If you do, please report these symptoms to your doctor).