Migraine is one of the most common neurological diseases in the world, and it is one that can affect a person’s ability to function on a daily basis.
Lawrence C. Newman, M.D., FAHS
Chair, American Migraine Foundation
When someone hears the term “migraine,” they may only think of a “bad headache.” The reality, unfortunately, is that it can be so much more. Migraine doesn’t discriminate. It affects children and adults, women and men, but it has its biggest impact between the ages of 25 and 55. Not surprisingly, for more than 90% of us living with this disease, all facets of our life are affected: education, career, family, and social relationships.
Migraine affects around 1 billion people globally. In the United States alone, more than 39 million Americans live with it. But head pain is only one feature. Attacks are often accompanied by light and sound sensitivity, neck pain, nausea or vomiting, brain fog, fatigue, visual disturbances, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and more.
Treating and diagnosing migraine
There are no tests that definitively diagnose this disease. Doctors use clues in a patient’s history as well as a physical exam to make the diagnosis and recommend treatments. The earlier a person identifies their symptoms and receives a diagnosis, the better. Unfortunately, more than half of patients go undiagnosed and, therefore, improperly treated.
Migraine is an “invisible disease.” During the throes of an attack, without proper treatment, people are often bedridden, yet between attacks, they appear perfectly fine. This dichotomy creates an opening for stigma and prevents many who are struggling from seeking help and, often, receiving the help they need.
Breaking the stigma
Understanding and awareness are two ways someone can help the migraine community, and these two can be accomplished with a simple willingness to learn and share. The American Migraine Foundation website has a wealth of information for people, including how to find a specialist, how to make the most of your visit, and updates on new and established treatments. Our Migraine Fitness at Work program is a course designed to raise awareness for migraine, educate employees, and provide accommodations if needed. Our website has resources for dealing with this illness in schools as well.
If you are living with migraine, you are not alone. There are many options available to reduce migraine’s impact on your life, and your doctor is your closest ally in finding the best treatment plan for you. But with the vast amount of people in the world, it may seem impossible to change the way migraine is viewed. Yet when we come together, support one another, and raise our voices, there is no limit to what is possible. Together, we are as relentless as migraine.