Migraines…evil twin or camouflage for Hydrocephalus?

Migraines…evil twin or camouflage for Hydrocephalus?

Do you ever find yourself caught between not knowing if the pain in your head is just a headache, a migraine or the horrible beast, which is Hydrocephalus?  I think it’s fairly easy to distinguish between just a normal headache and something more severe.  There’s almost a point of escalation you reach, where the pain just ebbs away in response to painkillers.  Then there’s the same point where the pain becomes heightened with some added discomforts (dizziness, nausea, vomiting, etc).  This would be a worrisome state for anyone who has this condition simply because Migraines are so close in relation to a Hydrocephalus-headache.  You play the “What if..?” game to no end, careful not to over or under react to the signs your body’s giving you and, fail miserably…

On Sunday I played mums taxi, carting my boys to opposite ends of the city (literally), to play cricket.  I love my kids and would do just about anything for them but, sitting and watching a full game of cricket, is definitely not my favourite pastime.  I took into account travelling between the fields and going home but decided to stay and watch half of each game with my 7-year old daughter.  She hates being stuck at these games just as much as I do and annoyingly protests, adding to my stress levels.

Thankfully, the weather was great and in hindsight, maybe a bit too good.  I felt my headache starting sometime during the day (nothing like the daily headaches of the last 3 weeks) and, as my mood turned the nasty colour of green, so did everything else.  I felt nauseous, lost my appetite and felt extremely tired.  Willing my body to make it home after the final ball was bowled, hallelujah!

  • I went straight to the bathroom to have a cool shower and as my headache escalated, I remembered reading a suggestion to “run cold water over your feet“.  It didn’t help…
  • Going to my bedroom, I closed the door and drew the curtains, letting the darkness enfold me.  Slight relief…

Then I lay down on my bed and it wasn’t long until the drums inside my head started beating even harder.

Pain across both eyes soon radiated to the top of my head and, before long, the rhythm continued across the back of my head and into the lower part of it.  The pain felt like it was oozing out of my ears as the feeling of nausea increased.

I had to try something else…

  • I popped two migraine pills and waited for it to work.  My level of patience was practically zero because I wanted it to take effect right then and there.
  • Getting back up, I went to the freezer to get a bag of peas.  Resting it on top of my head at the different sites…over my eyes, fore/top of my head then back and neck.  No relief…
  • I later got up and sniffed some Vicks…something I read somewhere too.  But… no luck.
  • I even increased my water intake, just in case it would have an effect…

Nothing helped!  I was truly at a loss for what else to do and ended up crying and praying for death as the pain intensified.  (As is the case when I’ve reached, what feels like, breaking point).

The thing about this pain is, no matter how much you try to ride it out, it literally brings you down.  It’s a rugby tackle of note with (seemingly) no chance of getting up.  In fact, staying down is probably the best thing you can do because resisting gets you absolutely nowhere.  You feel helpless and frail…

Throughout the night, I had a restless sleep waking to the throbbing still going on inside my head.  Nausea and dizziness threw me for a loop and eventually lying in an almost sitting position, didn’t have much effect either.

As I mentioned before, in hindsight, the extreme heat no doubt had an effect on me with a consequential migraine.  A visit to the Emergency Department the next day cleared me of a possible ETV failure (my biggest concern) but, I left with being treated for a UTI and quite possibly my Hyperthyroidism being the contributing factors to my discomfort and pain.  I couldn’t muster up the physical energy to argue the point of CTs being useless to check an ETV so, I accepted that surely this MUST be the reason for the evil twin to rear its head.  It was clearly evident to me that it came cloaked in camouflage and certainly had me fooled enough into suspecting the worst.

Findings: “Headaches likely represent Migraines” with a script for some Propranolol to trial with the headaches going forward.  

It leaves me to wonder if there really is a way to fight this beast of a pain when it hits…

What’s your go-to, no fail pain reliever?  I would love any more suggestions to the ones I’ve mentioned in this post.


  • minionmayhem514

    March 9, 2018 at 4:15 pm Reply

    I get migraines and frequent headaches-the best part is that what works for one doesn’t work for the other.

    Headaches: Tylenol and drinking a coke. Never fails, unless it’s a migraine, in which case this barely takes the edge off.

    Migraines: I’ll try a migraine pill (pain relief and caffeine) and if that doesn’t work, I take an imitrex and go to bed.

    Knowing the intense pain of migraines makes me worry for my daughter. You’re right-migraines mimic hydro issues and there’s no way to know the difference without a visit to the ER.

    • Skyewaters

      March 11, 2018 at 3:30 am Reply

      So true. Caffeine makes me nauseous and doesn’t do for me what others have sworn by to work for them?
      I would definitely say that if you’ve experienced migraine pain, you have a pretty good idea of what Hydro pain is like…it’s close enough.

  • Tammy

    March 9, 2018 at 3:52 am Reply

    Wait? CT’s are useless is testing ETV functionality?? I too had an ETV ( also migraines and hypothyroidism … we are twins lol). Are MRI’s better??
    Not that it matters because I swear something is amiss yet all my “tests” are negative.

    • Skyewaters

      March 11, 2018 at 3:27 am Reply

      Hi Tammy. I’m Hyper though but yes, close enough to compare notes?
      Yes, CTs are useless with ETVs. To be sure your ETV is working optimally, you would need an MRI with Cine flow study. This will show you the actual flow of the CSF through the stoma. The way it was explained to me by an NS is, if the flow is jet-like, similar to a hose pipe with a hole, they would know there’s a problem. Also, I have slit ventricles which won’t necessarily show up as enlarged either way. It’s a struggle…

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