Chronic, severe headaches have been known to have a devastating effect on a person’s quality of life, but now a new study suggests that even mild headaches can spoil a person’s quality of life.
Researchers say the migraine (a recurrent, usually unilateral severe headache) has been stigmatized as a trivial, non life-threatening disorder. Previous migraine research has mostly focused on those seeking medical treatment. But in the first study of migraine in the general population, researchers found that even “typical” migraine patients, those who did not seek medical treatment, had diminished quality of life compared to those who did have the disorder.
The “migraine is a legitimate disorder that imposes a significant health-related quality of life burden on people who have it,” says lead author Richard Lipton, MD, professor of neurology and epidemiology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. “Quality of life was substantially reduced both in men and in women.”
Researchers screened more than 8,000 people in the general public both in the US and the UK, including close to 400 migraine sufferers who had not seen a doctor. The surveys focused on quality of life issues, including general health perception and the ability to fulfill social and emotional commitments.
Researchers found a strong link between migraine and depression.They say most people with migraines weren’t necessarily depressed, and most people with depression didn’t necessarily have migraines. Although migraines and depression were related, they say the two contributed independently to the reduction of quality of life.
“The important thing is that whenever one disorder is present, it is important to have a heightened index of suspicion that the other disorder might be present,” says Lipton. “It is important that if both disorders are present, each needs to be treated separately.
Other experts agree that people may still view migraines as a trivial health problem. Fred Sheftell, MD, president of the American Council for Headache Education (ACHE) says that migraine sufferers have worse quality of life than patients with hypertension and congestive heart failure. “I don’t think the impact of migraine has been fully recognized.”
Sheftell says that the study validates previous findings that the migraine is prevalent, and is a disease both under-recognized and under-treated.
“The best way to improve the quality of life is to have the disease recognized and treated,” says Sheftell, who is also director of New England Center for Headache in Stamford, Connecticut. “While seeking consultation, migraine patients should go beyond just telling the symptoms. They should also tell physicians what impact it has on their lives. That will have a more powerful impact on physicians.”
The migraine is a treatable and preventable biological disorder that effects approximately 28 million Americans each year. Recently the US Headache Consortium released prevention and treatment guidelines on the condition.The guidelines are available at the American Academy of Neurology web site, at www.aan.com.
Article By: Hong Mautz