June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month sponsored by the National Headache Foundation. This year’s theme is focusing on giving a voice to those with this invisible illness with their “You Are Not Alone” campaign. They’re encouraging all head pain sufferers to share their story, through words or video, to end the cycle of silence.
Why is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month important?
Migraine and Headache Awareness Month is not just about alleviating pain. Headache disorders of all kinds account for years of lost productivity and a lower quality of life. Children can develop headache disorders, and these can result in low self-esteem, depression, and social anxiety. Headaches are often debilitating, not only financially but also personally. Family members can struggle to help the sufferer cope with their headache disorder, and this struggle can result in conflict and stress.
Headaches come in four primary types: migraine, tension-type headache (TTH), cluster headache (CH), and medication overuse headache (MOH). Each of these can range in severity and occurrence from mild and infrequent, lasting only a few hours, to severe and frequent, lasting several days and accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.
There are treatments for headache disorders, but one of the main barriers to treatment is lack of knowledge, both among healthcare professionals and the general public. Migraine and Headache Awareness Month strives to address this lack of knowledge by inviting the public to share their stories.
Here’s what we know at Pain Doctor when it comes to head pain statistics and impact.
1. Head pain is more common than you might think
Nearly 42 million people in the U.S. suffer from head pain. Worldwide, only 40% of people with head pain or migraine are diagnosed, and it may affect up to 50% of people.
2. Migraines are expensive
Migraines cost approximately 14 billion dollars a year in lost productivity and lost wages. Medical expenses and diagnostics are also a part of this statistic.
3. Suicide attempts for young adults with migraine were three to six times higher than those without migraine
Young adults suffering from migraine are also more like to suffer from panic and anxiety disorders.
4. Migraine sufferers take two and half times as many prescription drugs as non-migraine sufferers
They also spend nearly 50% more every month on healthcare costs. When they visit the doctor, they have six times as many diagnostic tests performed.
5. The success of a migraine treatment may depend on your doctor
Research from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center found that if a doctor presented a new treatment by touting its remarkable effectiveness in treating migraine pain, patients were more likely to report pain relief.
6. Some natural cures may help prevent and treat migraine pain
The herbal remedy butterbur has recently gained attention as a first-line defense for preventing migraines. In 2012, the American Academy of Neurologists (AAN) classified the herb as a preventative treatment for migraines. Supplementing with magnesium has also shown positive pain relief, and doctors recommend 400 and 420 milligrams daily for men, with 310 to 320 milligrams daily for women. These are just two potential natural medicines.
These strange headaches are accompanied by many symptoms of migraine, but without the pain and with distinct visual symptoms. Sufferers may experience nausea, auras, vomiting, dizziness, and exhaustion but with no headache pain.
8. Migraines and allergies may be linked
Migraine sufferers who also suffer from seasonal allergies may find their symptoms are even more severe during the most intense parts of allergy season. The link is inflammation: allergies, also called allergic rhinitis, are a condition that causes irritation and inflammation in the body. Migraines are also associated with inflammation of the blood vessels. This link could help with the study of treatment options.
9. Pharmaceutical approaches to migraine focus on both prevention and treatment
These treatments include things like antidepressants, beta blockers, anticonvulsants, and calcium channel-blockers in addition to prescription and over-the-counter pain medications. A new blood pressure medication is showing promise for migraine treatment as well.
Vincent van Gogh, Elvis Presley, Lisa Kudrow, Elizabeth Taylor, and Charles Darwin are just a few of the people who were laid low by migraines during their life.
11. Head pain is one of the leading causes of disability
As the World Health Organization reports: “Not only is headache painful, but it is also disabling. In the Global Burden of Disease Study, updated in 2013, migraine on its own was found to be the sixth highest cause worldwide of years lost due to disability (YLD). Headache disorders collectively were third highest.”
12. You can make a difference
Migraine and Headache Awareness Month highlights the impact that head pain has on us all. Even if you are personally not suffering, with 50% of the world in pain, chances are good that you or a loved one suffers from these conditions. Here are a few ways you can be supportive.
Learn as much as you can about migraine and spread the word on social media. Use the following hashtag on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media accounts to raise awareness and make head pain more visible: #MHAM (Migraine Headache Awareness Month). Their You Are Not Alone campaign is another great way to get involved. The National Headache Foundation explains how to join:
“Anyone who suffers from headache or migraine is invited to share their story at headachestory.com, either through words or video. Each entry will be on display for others to read and share in a concerted effort to end the cycle of silence. These stories will remain live after June, serving as an ongoing source of comfort and community. With more than 42 million Americans haunted by headache and migraine, it’s time to shed light on the invisible disease. Through sharing stories, the hope is to raise awareness, further the advancement of research and discover new and better treatment options.”
Also, feel free to share the following migraine infographic on social media to share more about this condition.
13. Watch for more serious symptoms
If you are a caregiver for someone who suffers from migraine, it is important to recognize the early signs and symptoms of not only an impending migraine or headache but also conditions that look like migraine but can signal another serious illness.
- Facial pain. More facial pain than usual or facial pain in addition to pain behind the eyes and ears may be a sign of giant cell arteritis (inflammation of facial arteries) that can be a precursor to stroke.
- Any changes in the nature of the migraine. Pain that is worse than normal or any additional systemic symptoms such as increased heart rate or chest pain may be a sign of something other than just a migraine.
- Migraine accompanied by fever, rash, or a stiff neck. This can be a sign of meningitis, a disease that can be fatal if not treated immediately.
- Neurological symptoms. Blurred vision, weakness on one side of the body, difficulty speaking, or difficulty breathing may be signs of stroke.
If there is any concern about changes in your migraine symptoms, including the ones listed above or any others with regard to frequency or duration, call your doctor immediately.
14. There is help
You can find out more about Migraine and Headache Awareness Month by visiting the National Headache Foundation for more information on headache disorders in general, including FAQs and how to find a qualified physician. Getting a diagnosis for the type of head pain you’re experiencing and different treatment options is your first step towards living a full life with head pain.
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