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Many Migraine Sufferers Don't Seek Help

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

March 25, 2002 -- Despite a host of new prescription drugs that can treat and even prevent the onset of migraine, many of the 28 million Americans who suffer these excruciating headaches (that's 13% of the population) are not seeking medical attention.

Richard B. Lipton, MD, from the department of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and colleagues identified and interviewed 410 people with frequent migraines (six or more attacks per year) to determine their patterns of healthcare use.

The findings appear in the March 26 issue of the journal Neurology.

More than twice as many women as men had migraines. Most sufferers were between the ages of 30 and 49, and 73% said that a doctor had diagnosed them with migraine.

Although 48% reported seeing a doctor for their headaches within the last year, 31% never had, and 21% hadn't for at least a year. Overall, 49% took only over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol, Advil, and Excedrin to treat their pain, 23% took prescription drugs, 23% took both, and 5% took nothing at all.

People who took the prescription drugs were more likely to report complete symptom relief within two hours than were people who used only over-the-counter remedies.

Although the number of patients seeking medical help for migraine has increased during the last decade, and more people than ever are using prescription drugs to treat their headaches, these numbers are still quite low, considering recent advances in prescription migraine treatments, the researchers say.

"Over-the-counter medications are an appropriate option for many migraine sufferers," says Lipton in a news release. "But given the advances in migraine treatment and the self-reported patient satisfaction with prescription medication, many migraine sufferers would suffer less with appropriate medical attention."

Using these more targeted remedies could help reduce the number of school and work days, as well as social and family events, reported missed by more than two-thirds of migraine sufferers, the researchers write.

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