Historically, migraine disease has been neglected. It was portrayed as “migraines,” sporadic headaches that could be treated with over the counter medicine and rest. As anyone who has ever experienced migraine disease knows, it is much worse.
Migraine can be categorized as a spectrum disease, ranging in frequency, severity and duration. Some people with migraine disease may experience as few as 1-2 attacks a year while others have 15 or more migraine days per month.
Debilitating pain, visual distortions, light and sound sensitivity, intense nausea, and vertigo are just some of the expected symptoms of a migraine attack. Migraine disease is a chronic, debilitating, and under reported neurological condition.
Migraine affects 39 million people nationwide and 1 billion globally. It is the second leading cause of global disability and the second leading cause of global neurological burden.
Migraine affects our servicemembers and veterans as well. 36% of servicemembers deployed to Iraq for a year or more experience migraine while veterans with traumatic brain injury are more likely to have chronic migraine. There has been a 27% increase in migraine diagnosis across the Armed Forces from 2001 to 2007.1
Currently, there is no cure for migraine disease. There are only treatments designed to stop or improve the headache symptoms. Some of these can be taken preventatively depending on how frequent your symptoms are. Others can be taken during a migraine attack to improve symptoms, and vary from over the counter medications, prescription abortives, to those you receive through an IV in an emergency.
None of these treatments are perfect fixes, and may not work for everyone. It is common to need to try a few treatments before finding one that might work for you.
There is currently research into finding better and more targeted treatment options. Unfortunately, due to the lack of public understanding about migraine disease, it is likely that these treatments will face major access barriers once they get to the market.
We need to be prepared, informed, and ready to inform others of the importance of adequate migraine disorder treatment.