Ignoring Headaches and Migraines Can Spell Danger

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MAGNUM, The National Migraine Association, has an excellent mission statement. One section of it reads:

    "To make persons aware that Migraine is not a benign disorder. For example, 27% of all strokes suffered by persons under the age of 45 are caused by Migraine. (Stroke is the third leading cause of death in this country.) In fact, more people died from Migrainous stroke last year than were murdered by handguns."

Another section of the MAGNUM site is Migraine: Myths Vs. Reality, where you will find:

  • MYTH: Migraine is not life-threatening, just annoying.
    REALITY: Migraine can be life-threatening, inducing conditions such as stroke and coma.
         Migraine can induce a host of serious physical conditions: strokes, aneurysms, permanent visual loss, severe dental problems, coma and even death.
         According to the New England Journal of Medicine, "Migraine can sometimes lead to ischemic stroke and stroke can sometimes be aggravated by or associated with the development of Migraine." Twenty-seven percent of all strokes suffered by persons under the age of 45 are caused by Migraine. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in this country. In addition, twenty-five percent of all incidents of cerebral infarction were associated with Migraines, according to the Mayo clinic."
  • MYTH: Any doctor will recognize and properly treat Migraine.
    REALITY: Migraine is one of the most misdiagnosed, mistreated, and least understood diseases.
         The fact that so many doctors don't take Migraine seriously can be as disabling to the Migraineur as the disability itself. The leading doctors in the areas of neurology and head pain have themselves stated that this disease is grossly misunderstood and misdiagnosed. In fact, 60% of women and 70% of men with Migraine have never been diagnosed with this disease. This medical ignorance and corresponding inaccurate writings unfortunately perpetuate the myths and misunderstandings about Migraine and convey this to the general public.
         Dr. Saper stated that "Migraine is a serious and underestimated health problem ... Patients with Migraine are shunted along an assembly line of misdiagnosis, undertreatment, or frank mismanagement. They are subjected to unnecessary procedures and preventable consequences." And as Dr. Silberstein wrote to M.A.G.N.U.M., "Migraine sufferers must not only cope with their pain, but also with society's misunderstanding of the disorder. Migraineurs are frequently dismissed as neurotic complainers who are unable to handle stress. The truth is that they frequently battle against great odds in order to hold down jobs and support families ... Young Migraine sufferers sometimes miss enough school so that they are unable to graduate with their peers."
         Similarly, Dr. Sheftell stated "In addition to misdiagnosis and under-diagnosis, Migraine sufferers will bear the brunt of discriminatory policies by a variety of health care agencies." Such agencies may deny reimbursement for emergency room visits and for hospitalizations for the most severe sufferers. It is not uncommon for doctors to think that a Migraine sufferer is in the emergency room to receive drugs, and dangerously turn them away." 3

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