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Migraine Awareness Week 2018: 7 migraine myths busted by an expert

Herbal teas for headaches. © Shutterstock

Migraine Awareness Week is observed to draw attention to migraine, educate the public and reduce the stigma around the disease. Migraine is one of the most under-diagnosed and under-treated diseases in India, resulting from myths and misconceptions surrounding the illness including incorrect diagnosis.

Written by Aishwarya Iyer |Published : September 3, 2018 7:18 PM IST

September 2nd to September 8th is observed as Migraine Awareness Week

Unbearable cluster headaches, awful mood-swings and constant pain in the back of your head could be some symptoms of migraine. However, this highly prevalent disease is often under-reported and under-diagnosed. According to Dr Harirama K Acharya, Clinical Director, Department of Neuro-sciences, Narayana Health City,

Bangalore, Migraine is the most common headache disorder and 90% of the patients consulting a physician for headache, perhaps have migraine. However, only 50% receive the correct diagnosis and majority do not receive appropriate treatment. An untreated migraine attack usually lasts from 4 to 72 hours. The lack of awareness, inadequate or inappropriate treatment resulting from myths and misconceptions surrounding the illness including incorrect diagnosis are the major reasons for the high prevalence of this treatable disorder.

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However, Dr Acharya believes that there are various myths around this disease, here are 7 of them busted for you:

1) Migraine is just a bad headache.

Migraine is the most common neurological disorder that is characterised by a severe throbbing pain in one side of the head along with other symptoms such as nausea or vomiting. A headache is only one of the many symptoms of migraine. The other symptoms of migraine are nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to sensory phenomena like bright lights, strong odours which are not there in reality and loud sounds, blurred vision and inability to cope up with daily activities. A migraine can also occur without headache.

2) Migraines do not last long.

The duration of a migraine attack may last anywhere between 4-72 hours, but migraines have been known to last longer in some sufferers. Episodic migraine is the type of migraine that occurs for less than 15 days a month. If not treated on time, episodic or acute migraine can get worse and lead to chronic migraine which includes a greater number of migraine episodes.

3) Migraine affects women majorly. Men rarely suffer from migraine.

This is partly true as women are more prone to migraine attacks than men. Studies have shown that almost 12% of adult men (aged 18-65) suffer from migraine headaches.

4) Migraines aren t life-threatening.

Even if a migraine attack may not be life threatening, the complications associated with it can be life-threatening. Research has established strong links between migraines with cardiovascular disease and stroke. Evidence has also shown a definite link between depressions, suicide and migraine.

5) Children do not get migraine since it is only an adult disorder.

Migraine can start in childhood however it remains undiagnosed because children are unable to communicate their symptoms exactly. Only a doctor can correctly diagnose the child s migraine with proper information about family history and child s behaviour analysis.

6) All migraineur (people suffering from migraine) have migraine with aura.

The symptoms of migraine vary from individual to individual. Besides, two attacks experienced by the same individual need not be the same. An aura is a sensory, motor, visual phenomenon experienced sometimes by some people during migraine. It can be perceived as bright confusing lights, distressing smells or confusing sounds. Less than 20% sufferers experience migraine with aura.

7) Nothing can be done about migraine. One must learn to live with it.

Migraine can be managed well with a good understanding of your condition and triggers along with proper treatment prescribed by a doctor. Armed with knowledge of your individual symptoms and your case history, your doctor can prescribe a treatment regimen combining both prophylactic treatment and pain management prescription that can help you manage migraine well.

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