Next Avenue: Why You Get Migraines & What To Do About Them

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These headaches can be debilitating, but many treatments offer relief.

If you’ve ever experienced the throbbing pain of a migraine, you know how difficult it can be to carry on with your normal routine — especially if you’re one of the 14 million people who experience chronic daily headaches.

More than 90 percent of sufferers are unable to work or function well during these headaches. That’s because migraines are not just really bad headaches. The World Health Organization classifies severe migraine attacks as among the most disabling illnesses, comparable to dementia, psychosis and even quadriplegia.

And it’s not only the headache sufferer who is impacted: American employers lose more than $13 billion each year as a result of the 113 million lost work days due to migraine, the Migraine Research Foundation reports.

Women Suffer Most

Over 27 million women in the United States are affected by migraine. Women are three times more likely to have migraines than men, says Dr. Merle Diamond, managing director of The Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, Ill.

One determining factor might be estrogen. “It’s the drop in estrogen level that occurs just before, or at the time, of menstrual flow that sets off the migraine in predisposed women,” reports Dr. Ronald M. Andiman, director of The Headache Clinic at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, Calif.

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