Sunday, March 11, 2007

Weekend migraines (part 2)

As my late mother used to ask, do you know the story of the three wells? No, I would answer. "Well, well, well".

No pain on Friday. Almost no pain on Saturday (I woke up with a slight headache which might have been caused by mild dehydration - my wife left the electric blanket on all night). No pain so far today.

Can it really be that going to bed frustrated and not sleeping well can cause migraines? There are people who would say definitely so, those who believe in a holistic approach.

I come from a scientific background, which means that the experiment has to be repeated several times in order to reach a conclusion. So: no basketball this Thursday night. Maybe I'll tape the game and watch it on Friday afternoon, depending on the result.

My clinical psychologist friend laid out some new exams which she wants me to computerise. Being in stout mind over the weekend, I completed one from scratch and I'll show her the results in the next few days. There's another exam which looks fairly easy to implement; the only decision which I have to make at the moment is whether the interface should be only keyboard or only mouse (I suppose I could do both). Sometimes the people being tested are not too familiar with a computer, although I imagine that this kind of person is disappearing, especially considering the nature of the exam. So it looks like I'll go with the mouse interface.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Weekend migraines

As I wrote previously, I went to see my doctor about migraines. First of all, he checked my symptoms to see that they are indeed included in the list which indicates migraine - not everybody has the same symptoms and even not every migraine which I suffer has the same symptoms. Then he gave me a neurological examination - checking reflexes, getting me to touch my nose with my arms outstretched and my eyes closed. After I passed this test, we talked a bit about causes.

Almost all of my migraines start on a Saturday morning, so the natural question is what is different about Friday night. Well, it's the only time of the week that I eat meat - roast chicken, in fact. Now, there are certain foods which are known to trigger migraines such as chocolate (which I rarely eat), but no one has yet indicated roast chicken! The doctor expressed surprise, and joked that if this is really the cause, then he can write an article about it and become famous. He advised me not to eat chicken that evening (the consultation was on Friday morning) to see whether that would have any effect. He considered prescribing me beta-blockers, specifically propranolol, but first wanted to see what my blood pressure was and whether there is any identifiable trigger.

My BP was measured three times, with an average value of 140/80, which is very high for me and hopefully unusual. I left the clinic at about 11:30am, and by about 3pm I already had a developing headache, obviously not due to the roast chicken which I was just about to start preparing. Then followed two and a half days of intermittent pain and nausea, a classic migraine for me.

Several people have mentioned to me that many people suffer from 'weekend migraines', which arise from a change in lifestyle. I was told about one person who normally drinks several cups of coffee a day but not at weekends and so suffers migraines as a result (caffeine withdrawal); as I drink herbal tea, this isn't a problem for me, but I understand the basic idea. Another person pointed out that we normally get up later at the weekend, which can upset the body rhythm.

So I started thinking: if I already had the headache by Friday afternoon, what is different about Thursday evening/Friday morning to the rest of the week? Well, for a start, I only work a few hours on Friday morning (my company officially works Sunday to Thursday, but I do a few extra hours on Friday when it's quiet and no one bothers me) and don't drink very much. I also watch frustrating basketball games on Thursday evening, don't shower and go to bed late, so I am often more tired on a Friday.

As it happens, Maccabi Tel Aviv played basketball on a Wednesday this week, the first time in several years, and as they were totally dominated by Tau Vittoria, I didn't bother watching the entire game. Instead I elected to shower and go to bed at a reasonable hour, unaffected emotionally by the game. Yesterday I had my blood pressure measured at a much more reasonable 119/75, today I've been drinking, and it will be interesting to see what happens this weekend.

I keep my fingers crossed.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Donating blood

Yesterday, the 'bloodmobile' made its semi-annual journey to the kibbutz so that people could donate blood. There's always a shortage of blood available for infusions, so Magen David Adom (the equivalent to Red Cross) are always trying to get people to donate. On the other hand, in the past few years, they have also tried to make things as hard as possible for people to donate, in order to ensure that they blood that they do get is of the highest quality. There is a questionnaire which one has to complete which asks all kinds of questions: does the donor suffer from epileptic fits? Is the donor an intravenous drug user? Has the donor undergone dental treatment in the past seven days? Has the donor lived abroad for a period of six months during the years ....? What medication has the donor taken in the past two weeks? Has the donor been feeling well in the past few days?

One gets the picture. Had the bloodmobile come a few days ago, there is no way that I would have gone as I had been feeling very unwell (probably migraines, although I'm going to the doctor tomorrow and may get a new diagnosis), and donating blood was completely out of the question. But I've been feeling much better and thought that there would be no problem this time.

After completing the questionnaire, one goes to a paramedic who checks the questionnaire, asks some more questions (some of which are covered in the questionnaire), checks pulse and blood pressure, and in the case of women and vegetarians, haemoglobin levels. During this chat, I mentioned that I had had an appointment with a skin doctor a few days ago for the removal of a small growth, but that nothing had happened as the growth was too big to be removed, considering the poor sterility conditions of her office (as the growth is on my back, I can't see it very well, but it's maybe two centimetres in diameter). I thought that I would be ok to donate as I hadn't had it removed, but it turns out the opposite. Once the paramedic heard this, he phoned a doctor in Jerusalem who asked me what the growth was. When I told her that it was BCC (basal cell carcinoma), she immediately said that I could not donate, but that I will be able to after it has been removed.

So: another visit of the bloodmobile goes by without me donating. Everyone thanked me for at least wanting to donate (most people don't even want to), but I was left with an obscure feeling of having been rejected