An estimated 28 million Americans, or 12 percent of the U.S. population, suffer from migraines. Adult women are roughly three times more likely to suffer from migraine than men; one in five women experience migraine headaches versus one in twenty men. The condition occurs most commonly between the ages of fifteen to fifty-five, and migraine occurrence seems to diminish with age; adults age eighteen to forty-four were nearly three times as likely to report suffering a migraine or severe headache over the past three months than adults age sixty-five or older.
Migraine is also an expensive disease. A 2006 survey found that migraines cost American health care and business a staggering $24 billion each year. This includes direct medical expenditures for migraine care (i.e., prescription drugs, emergency room care, and inpatient and outpatient treatment) of over $12 billion. In addition, American employers lose another $12 billion each year from employee absences, short-term disability insurance, and workers' compensation claims -- and that doesn't include costs for lost productivity of employees who go to work during a migraine episode.
That cost may be exacerbated by the fact that many people living with migraine do not have adequate prescription drug insurance coverage. In a study of patients who used prescription triptan medication for migraine relief, 42 percent of those surveyed said that their insurance did not cover enough monthly medication to treat their migraine, and 37 percent had not filled a triptan prescription because of the out-of-pocket cost.
During a migraine attack, men and women spend 4.5 hours and 6 hours confined to bed, respectively. Over the course of a year, that translates to about 3.8 bedridden days for men and 5.6 bedridden days for women, and over 112 million bedridden days for the total American migraine population.
Do you know though that migraines can be a symptom of eye problems. Strain on the eye can cause serious headaches which manifest themselves as migraines. This may be due to something like cataracts. If it is a simple procedure commonly known as cataract surgery can correct eye problems and potentially stop migraines happening.
The stereotypes and stigmas associated with migraine may prevent women from seeking help. Historically, headache pain has often been discounted as a legitimate medical condition. Patients may dismiss migraine symptoms as "just a headache" and fail to seek help. The fact that migraine often coexists with mood disorders like depression and anxiety may also contribute to this problem. Migraineurs may hesitate to seek help because of the fear that they'll be considered psychologically unstable or not taken seriously. Research shows, however, that migraine is clearly not a psychiatric or psychological condition -- it is a biological brain disorder.
Some of the fault for the high underdiagnosis rate of migraine lies with the health care provider. Primary care physicians may not be knowledgeable in the diagnosis and treatment of the condition or familiar with the criteria. According to one study, less than half of internal medicine residents and 62 percent of family practice residents consider themselves prepared to treat patients with headache.
Many undiagnosed migraineurs are actually misdiagnosed with other types of headache. One study found that sinus headache was the clinical diagnosis given in 42 percent of migraine cases, and tension headache was the diagnosis in 32 percent of migraine cases. A patient's assertion that they believe they have sinus or tension headaches seemed to be a strong factor in misdiagnosis by doctors.