Migraines are no small thing. 1 in 4 households in the U.S. have a person that suffers from migraine for a total of over 37 million people. More than 50% of those people suffer in silence, remaining undiagnosed.

So what is a migraine and what are its impacts?

Migraines are defined as serious headaches that are not generally alleviated by simply taking an over-the-counter analgesics. They may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, and a pounding sensation in the head. Migraines can occur in anyone but are most common in women. They can be triggered by hormonal changes, sleep deficiency, medications, allergens, or food sensitivity. Additionally, smoking and certain foods can trigger a migraine, and every 10 seconds someone visits an ER for migraine or headache.

Migraines are vascular in nature, meaning they are likely the result of enlargement of blood vessels and the release of chemicals in nerves around those vessels, causing inflammation and pain. The pain and symptoms of migraine can last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

An examination of studies in the United States in the late 1990s and early 2000s uncovered some disturbing statistics. In addition to a financial impact of approximately $14 billion per year due to loss of productivity and days off from work, these studies found that the rate of suicide attempts were anywhere from 3 to 6 times higher for young adults suffering from chronic migraine pain.  These young adults were also more at risk for psychiatric disorders including anxiety and panic.

In light of the fact that only 1 in 5 people seek medical attention for their migraine, this is a troubling impact of migraine.

Other financial impacts of migraine include increased healthcare costs for both medications and diagnostic tests. Those who suffer from diagnosed migraine pain are twice as likely to visit the emergency room than those who are free from migraine.

The quality of life for migraine sufferers is also significantly impacted. They may miss important family functions due to migraine headaches, or they may need to restrict their activity while outside of the house or  even cut it short if they feel a migraine coming on. This can result in anxiety and stress that decreases overall quality of life.

If you or someone you know suffers from migraine pain, do these statistics ring true?

Image by Stefan Neuweger via Flickr

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