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Migraines and Your Job

How to keep your career on track when you have migraines.

To Talk or Not to Talk

Generally, it's a good idea to keep your personal life separate from work life.

But if you've tried to quietly remove migraine triggers from work, and it's not working -- or if you find yourself having to leave the office frequently because migraine symptoms are interfering with your job performance, it may be time to let your boss and/or co-workers know about your migraines.

And keep in mind your upcoming job performance review. If migraines cause the quality of your work to suffer but your supervisor doesn't know about your condition, your performance evaluations can take a hit. "If you didn't ask for an accommodation before, that's the wrong time to ask for it," Reisinger says.

Ultimately, it's your decision to disclose, or not. If you do decide to discuss a medical condition at work, Reisinger says, the approach you take matters.

If it's obvious that you're dealing with something personal at work -- say you have to wear sunglasses indoors to reduce the effects of bright office lights -- it's important to avoid telling only some people around the office and not others. "If you tell only some people, it starts to look like you're playing favorites," Reisinger says.

And limit what you share. No one needs to hear about how often your migraines cause you to vomit, for example. "Keep it light, and don't try to get people to feel sorry for you," Reisinger says.

If you think your boss might not be sympathetic, you might want to ask your doctor for a note confirming your migraine condition and your work-based triggers.

"I've written letters for patients to request environmental changes [at work]," Rosen says. "I think privacy is important but if there are places where changes can be made to improve the situation they should be shared with administration," he says.

Many companies -- especially large employers -- have an occupational department or an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), where you can get professional help planning the best way to talk with your boss and co-workers about your migraines, and any special accommodations you may need in order to do your job.

Your employer's Human Resources department is another place to turn for help if specialized programs aren't in place.

If your headaches frequently disrupt your work day, look for ways in which you can preserve a sense of fairness among your co-workers.

Avoid making excuses or falling into a pattern of asking others to complete your work. "Sooner or later it will breed resentment," Reisinger says. If possible, take work home to complete when you're feeling better or come in from time to time on the weekend to finish whatever was left undone during the week, he advises.

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