A migraine isn’t just any headache. It can be accompanied by nausea, light sensitivity and intense pain. But researchers at the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s Headache Center in Philadelphia and Rutgers University in New Jersey have found that many people don’t understand how debilitating the condition can be for migraine sufferers.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, migraines affect 29.5 million Americans.
The studyby researchers from the two universities focused on the social stigma that is attached to the condition by evaluating migraine sufferers along with those who have epilepsy. Using a “stigma scale” for those with chronic illness, the researchers found that people are stigmatized by the general public in large part because of the number of days that people with migraines miss in the workplace.
The misunderstandings about migraines that is believed to be prevalent among the public needs to be addressed so that family members and workplace colleagues can understand the stresses and environmental conditions that contribute to the headaches.
“I don’t think people realize that it is not unusual for people with migraine to have severe headaches every day – to be so disabled that they are unable to work,” said neurologist William Young, M.D., who headed the study published recently in the journal PloS One. “This is what causes the stigma – the fact that people with severe migraine may not be able to work.”
Young said many people who have migraines need bed rest during the day when the headaches occur, which can be several times during the month. At the Headache Center in Philadelphia, about 25 percent of the migraine patients cannot keep a job because of the condition. Many migraine sufferers also have severe depression.