Approximately one out of 10 people experiences migraine headache, which science has proven is more than a headache. It is an intense and complex cascade of neurotransmitter and vascular symptoms, which usually are preceded by strange feelings or symptoms called an aura. This could be a change in mood or noticing that things taste or smell differently than normal. Then, the blinding pain hits unilaterally (one side of the head) – an intense throbbing that makes it difficult to function at all. Bright lights hurt the eyes, and the sufferer may become nauseated and vomit.
The duration of a migraine is hours to days, often with the individual completely having to take to their bed. While there have been recent strides in helping people who suffer from chronic migraines, both by way of medications, including Botox and eastern medicine such as acupuncture and aromatherapy, many continue to have refractory headaches or those that keep coming back no matter what trigger is removed or how much medication is taken.
For people who don’t suffer from migraine, it may be easy to underestimate how powerful the headache and syndrome is. Most “normal” headaches require the headache sufferer to take a couple ibuprofen tablets and go on with their day. Migraine headaches don’t respond to that, and the fact that they are misunderstood and underestimated only adds to the sufferer’s burden.
And what a burden it is. A new study conducted by researchers at Montefiore Headache Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, decided to take a look at the debilitating factors of migraine – socially, emotionally, physically, and financially. The findings were published April 28 in Volume 91, Issue 5 of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
According to News Medical, the study amassed 4,022 people with migraines along with their spouses or domestic partners to gain a full understanding of the effect of migraine on the family. What they found was more troublesome than they had originally thought. Approximately 41 percent of people with migraine and 23 percent of spouses stated that they believed those affected by migraine would be better parents if they did not have migraine because migraine caused them to miss out on child-centered activities at least once a month.
This can lead to guilt and strained relationships, the study found. Perhaps more significantly, one-third of people with migraine and 21 percent of their spouses/partners cope with worries about long-term financial security for their family due to migraine and the amount of missed work that migraine can cause. Dawn Muse, a researcher of the study, says that the toll can be immense and families of those with migraine are also shouldering the burden.
“This study highlights the significant burden that migraine can have on a wide range of family activities, parenting responsibilities, spousal relationships and family finances. Respondents with migraine and their partners noted a great deal of emotional distress related to how this condition affects their family member including guilt, worry and sadness. These findings underscore the challenges and negative impact that people with migraine and their family members experience.”
This is important because the medical community may need to address these issues – the anxiety, depression, and ineffective coping that often accompanies those who deal with chronic migraine. Their quality of life is greatly lessened, which can also cause guilt, anger or sadness in those who are close to them. Richard B. Lipton, M.D., director of Montefiore Headache Center and vice chair of neurology, said that these factors may persist long after the migraine itself is gone.
“The consequences of migraine can be devastating and far-reaching for people with migraine and their families. As a next step, we are analyzing responses from the children of those with migraine, who are 13 and older. We are also developing the ‘Impact of Migraine on Partners and Children Scale (IMPACS)’ to help quantify the family burden of migraine. We hope that improved diagnosis, treatment and enhanced recognition of the burden associated with migraine leads to better outcomes for all family members.”
How have chronic migraines affected you or your family?
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