The biggest battle the migraine community seems to face is the gross number of individuals who believe a migraine is “just a bad headache.” The general population has very little understanding of the magnitude of this illness. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, “every 10 seconds, someone in the United States goes to the emergency room complaining of head pain and approximately 1.2 million visits are for acute migraine attacks.”1. This foundation is a tremendous source for information and statistics regarding migraine and the effects of migraine on sufferers and their families.
The stigma associated with migraine, especially chronic migraine, is such that most sufferers simply withdraw from society altogether. Others feel like people with migraine withdraw from their communities, their families, their close friends and often their spouses. The common ideologies are the people complaining of migraine symptoms are simply complainers, hypochondriacs, or worse yet, weak or lazy. I obviously cannot speak for every individual that suffers with chronic migraine, but I put everything on the line to work through each and every day, WITH my severe pain. I work, maintain my household and do everything else that people without migraines do. Despite all of this, I am still judged if I attempt to go to an emergency room to attempt to break a truly severe migraine. I have had emergency rooms demand a spinal tap to check for meningitis, which is by no means a pleasant and risk free process. I have had doctors flat refuse to do anything at all because they feel as though it is not possible that I am in as much pain as I claim. I have also been told that I am simply drug seeking, when we are asking for a shot of toradol to help break the cycle. Due to this treatment, I primarily stay home and suffer through it on my own.
According to the 2016 Migraine In America Survey, 67% of respondents said that they feel as though others do not understand that their migraine is not just a headache, 64% of respondents said they find themselves constantly worrying about disappointing people, 46% of respondents said they are embarrassed about having migraines, and 41% of respondents said they try to hide their migraine from others.
The costs associated with migraine come in several forms from the actual monetary costs, to relationships, social, and economic costs. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, “Healthcare costs are 70% higher for a family with a migraine sufferer than a non-migraine affected family. American employers lose $13 billion each year as a result of 113 million lost work days due to migraine.”1. A large number of people with migraine do not seek medical help for their illness due to the stigma associated with migraine. Those that do seek medical assistance are faced with the costs of missing work for appointments plus the high cost of most medications and treatment procedures.
According to the 2016 Migraine in America Survey, 93% of respondents said their migraine affects their ability to work, 89% of respondents said their migraine affects their relationship with their partner or significant other, 87% of respondents said their migraine affects their ability to attend school or college, and 86% of respondents said their migraine affects their relationship with their children. There are many families where the person with migraine is unable to work so they lose that individual’s possible income as well. Due to their migraine, one out of four individuals found it necessary to stop working, to take medical leave, or decrease the number of hours they work.
Despite the prevalence of the serious effects of migraines on individuals, their families and the economy, there is very little funding for research for migraine. Back in 2015, the National Institutes of Health spent about $.50 cents per person with migraine for migraine research1. It’s almost as if there is such a disbelief in the severity of this illness, that no one is willing to commit any serious resources to address the issues; this unfortunately speaks volumes about the medical and pharmaceutical industry.
This just shows how important it is for us to continue to be advocates for ourselves and for other. It is so important that we continue to work to find a way to convince the medical community to take this illness much more seriously than they do now. We need medical professionals who have the desire to broaden the spectrum of treatment options. An increase in funding would allow medical professionals and pharmaceutical companies to focus on the necessary research to improve or increase the treatment options currently available in order to acquire the much needed resolution to the current situation.
Have you been faced with the stigma associated with chronic migraine? Do you feel the impact of the cost of chronic migraine? Do you believe an increase in funding could help fix some of these issues?