Neurologist: Migraine More Than Just a Headache

3 min read  |  June 25, 2024  | 

At age 17, Ashley Fennema was diagnosed with chronic migraine.

“You have all the lights in your house off, you have all the shutters closed, you’re in complete silence, and it still hurts,” says Ashley.

Teshamae Monteith, M.D., a neurologist and headache specialist at UHealth, says migraine is more than just head pain, it’s a chronic brain disorder that affects all aspects of a person’s life.

“It’s a multi-phasic disorder. They may have cognitive impairment, they may have stiffness of the neck, they may have light sensitivity. This is a warning sign that a migraine is happening. Some people may have aura, most commonly visual aura. And then there’s that head pain phase. Patients may experience avoidance of certain behaviors or activities because you’re afraid you’re going to get a migraine. Missing someone’s graduation or a family function, and these things over time really add up,” Dr. Monteith says.

Dr. Monteith says because migraine is an invisible disorder there’s often stigma associated with it. Ashley credits the UHealth team for making her feel seen and heard for the first time and is now spreading a message of hope.

“Migraine is an invisible illness that makes patients feel invisible as well. The hope lies in the fact that we are not alone,” Ashley says.

Migraine treatment helped get her life back

Ashley, whose migraines were so bad she had to be hospitalized, is now raising awareness.

“We tell her, “Live your life, go for it. Go for the best because you’re at a beautiful time in your life and you really need that.” And doing that I think is also therapeutic,” says Dr. Monteith.

Dr. Monteith put Ashley on a new treatment plan that included CGRP blocking infusions.

“It’s calcitonin gene-related peptide, so CGRP. Targeting this or its receptor are some of the newer treatments that are available to our patients that really can help really improve patients’ quality of life,” Dr. Monteith says.

Ashley is now back to living her life – including running through a field of her favorite flowers!

“We went through all the sunflowers. It was being able to not lose that hope,” says Ashley.

She credits Dr. Monteith and the UHealth team for getting her out of the darkness and into the light.

“I’m so grateful and I love her so much,” Ashley says.

Video transcript compiled by Janna Ross for ‘Focusing on You: Innovations in Modern Medicine,’ a series of health care-related stories airing regularly on WPLG Local 10.  For more stories like this one, visit UHealth’s YouTube channel.

Tags: CGRP, chronic migraine, Dr. Teshamae Monteith, focusing on you, headache specialist, headaches, migraine, neurologist

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