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Migraines Create Financial Headaches

Outpatient Visits, Pharmacy Costs, Used Sick Time Lead to Higher Health Costs
WebMD Health News

May 11, 2004 -- Talk to anyone who's had them: Migraines are costly. The quality-of-life costs are enormous. So is the impact on the pocketbook. In fact, a migraine sufferer's family total health-care costs often run 70% higher than families without a migraine sufferer, a new study shows.

It is the first extensive study of migraine and its impact on family health-care costs.

"Migraine is a common and costly illness that appears to have financial impact not only on the sufferers, but also on others in their families," writes researcher Paul E. Stang, PhD, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health in Chapel Hill. His study appears in the May issue of The American Journal of Managed Care.

Indeed, painful and debilitating migraine headaches run in families. They can begin in childhood. While every migraine sufferer has a different trigger, the result is the same. Overly active electrical impulses in the brain lead to inflammation of blood vessel and pain. The more inflammation there is, the more intense the migraine.

Over the years, medications such as triptans, like Imitrex, have been developed to quickly stop the headache once it begins. Also, there are older medications that can be taken to prevent a headache, such as beta-blockers (used commonly to treat heart disease) or tricyclic antidepressants.

But how does all this affect families financially? That's what Stang and his research group investigated.

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