Migraines treatment lags other chronic conditions, U of C professor says

Not just in your head: Dr. Elizabeth Leroux, clinical associate professor of neurology at the University of Calgary, talks about the science of migraines on Nov. 20, 2018 in the Senator Burns Building on the SAIT campus. Leroux attended the University of Montreal for her neurology training, and focuses on headache medicine. (Photo by Sydney Walker/The Press)

With not enough headache training in Canada, migraine patients encouraged to speak up about their condition as a disabling disease.

Migraines deserve a special understanding,” Dr. Elizabeth Leroux, clinical associate professor of neurology at the University of Calgary, said during a talk on the SAIT campus Nov. 20.

“Nobody wants to do headache medicine,” Leroux said in response to the long waiting lists at headache clinics.

It takes a long time to educate people and explain things, which is why nobody wants to pursue headache medicine, Leroux added.

Leroux said she had contacted The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada to suggest a mandatory elective for neurology residents to see migraine patients, but was told, “it’s not a priority.”

“That’s the problem, not enough training, not enough support, and also a complicated business,” said Leroux.

Approximately 12 per cent of the world’s population has some degree of migraines, with one per cent suffer from chronic migraines.

Leroux said that it is the third most common medical condition in the whole world and the second most disabling disease.

The reasons for it has taken so long for physician to understand migraines, is because that one cannot see what is going on in the brain easily, said Leroux.

“Migraines are invisible, they’re like Wi-FI,” said Leroux. It’s there, but doctors just can’t see it.

As a genetic disorder, having migraines is a mix of genes rather than just one, and it is not possible to see a migraine attack in a CT or MRI scan.

Leroux said that the migrainous brain has a low serotonin state, and that when someone suffers from an attack, the brain shifts and the serotonin goes up, but the cause for this is unknown.

People with migrainous brains can be hyper perceptive, whereas normal brains do not react the same way, said Leroux.

“You’re not crazy, migraines are real, it’s a neurological condition,” Leroux said.

There is solid, scientific proof that the migrainous brain is different, and that “it’s variable.”

The genes, the software and the triggers also differ from patient to patient.

“It’s not because we can’t see it on CT or MRI scans that it does not exist,” said Leroux.

“Chronic migraines are very disabling,” Leroux said.

The World Health Organization recognizes that migraines, in general, is the second leading cause of disability in adults.

About Sydney Walker 2 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Sydney Walker is working as a writer for The Press during the 2018-19 academic year.