If you’ve ever had a migraine headache, you tend not to forget the pain.
According to Migraine.com, the number of people who suffer from migraines is considerable: 37 million people suffer from migraines in the United States alone.
We had a recent discussion with Dr. Andrew Charles, who is Director of the Headache Research and Treatment Program at UCLA. He thinks the number of migraine sufferers is higher, and the migraines are often attributed to something else.
“99% of sinus headaches, much of neck pain and a considerable amount of fibromyalgia pain may, in reality, be migraines,” Charles told us.
Dr. Charles’ statement was underscored in a recent survey of over 2,400 women with chronic pain by National Pain Report. In that readers survey, which had the largest response that we’ve had, over one-third of the women (34%) said they suffered from migraines.
Studies show that three times as many women suffer from migraines as men. Hormonal fluctuations are thought to be a major “trigger” of migraines.
But men suffer too.
“I love having a cup of coffee in the morning and a drink before dinner,” a friend who is a 30-year migraine sufferer explained to me. “I mostly avoid them because I know that both of those are possible triggers for me.”
Elizabeth Loder, MD, is co-author of the “Migraine Solution”. In an online discussion at WashingtonPost.com, she shared with a patient the importance of understanding triggers, but also acknowledged that knowing them and avoiding them doesn’t mean the migraine won’t still come on.
“Your comment about food triggers reminds me that most people with migraine do notice things in the environment that can affect the chance they will have a headache. Most of the time, however, even if they are careful to avoid these things, they will still get some headaches,” Dr. Loder wrote.
“I think that is because for most people who are susceptible to migraine there are usually many different things that can trigger a headache — not just a single thing — and some of those things are not obvious or avoidable.”.
Generally the onset of a migraine may be preceded by mood changes, fatigue, mental fuzziness and fluid retention. This so-called “common migraine” can persist three of four days depending on treatment. Some are preceded by a visual aura which presents as a flickering jagged line, usually at the side of the visual field. Either type of migraine may also be accompanied by nasal congestion, tearing, and sinus pain or pressure.
The American Migraine Foundation reports that migraine costs the United States more than $20 billion each year. Those costs count both direct medical costs and indirect expenses like missed work and lost productivity.