Dear Ask The Doctor: Could this be a neurological problem? Hi, I have been experiencing on and off sudden sharp burning pain on the right side of my head for about 12 to 13 years. Recently, it has been more frequent. In the past, years would sometimes go by with no symptoms. It feels like something is twisting inside of my head and is burning. The pain is sudden, I can be in bed resting or doing something. I've been keeping a diary, and there is no pattern regarding what I doing and when it happens. I only experienced a secondary symptom on one occassion about three months ago. It was the most severe episode ever. Following the pain, I felt heaviness and pain in my left arm, especially my sholder and inside of my elbow and wrist. This pain alternated location for about three hours until I finally fell asleep. In the morning I no longer had any pain. In the earlier years, the burning pain was somewhat close to my neck on the back right side. My doctor thought it may be from the muscles in my neck since I was also experiencing numbness in my my pinky, which I still do on occassion. She never ran any tests but did also tell me that I should let her know if the pain ever occured in a different location. Unfortunately, I no longer have medical insurance and have not been able to speak with her regarding my more frequent episodes. Lately, the pain has occured higher on the right side of my head, across from my eye and sometimes across from the top of my ear. The pain always happens without warning, but depending on the severity, it will gradually go away anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds after the first shock. At times, it causes my head to jerk from the pain. I also experience other things separate from this that I don't know if it is related. These things occured only a few times and haven't happened again. I experienced lightheadedness, but was not dizzy. I was sitting down and laid down because I began to sweat and thought I may pass out. It took about 5 minutes to subsideand did not get better right away after laying down. I had eaten breakfast and was resting on the couch when it happened. I also experienced this feeling twice while taking a shower. I had to hold myself up on the wall then get out of the shower for the feeling to go away. I was taking a hot shower but I always do and this has never happened before or again. Also, a few years ago, while driving my vision starting to gray or back out slowely unexpectadly. I pulled over and waited about 20 minutes for that to subside. These things have never happened again so I don't know what to make of all this, and do not know if any of it is related. Due to the infrequency of the later symptoms, I don't know if I'm just being a little paranoid. If you can shed some light on any of this, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Melissa
Dear Melissa: A complex migraine is a type of headache, severe, often disabling that besides the pain may include the following symptoms: weakness, blurry, double or loss of vision and even difficulty speaking, looking similar to a Stroke. The most common triggering causes are: stress, depression, certain medications or foods (MSG, chocolate, wine, cheeses), hormonal disorders, lack of sleep, changes in the blood flow pattern of the brain. If the migraine is beginning can be treated with NSAIDs (“Aleve”,”Motrin”), there are also prescription medicines that may be used to treat the attacks and as preventive. Above all you can do the following to avoid Complex Migraines: try not to eat foods with MSG, cheeses (especially aged), wine and chocolate; try to have frequent breaks at work, eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, do not skip meals, get a good night sleep, drink enough water during the day so you keep hydrated, exercise regular and consistently.