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Frequent Migraines Affect the Whole Family

Web survey suggests the condition influences marriage, parenting and family dynamics


Overall, people with chronic migraines missed family activities and had reduced quality time with their spouse almost seven days a month, according to the study.

One result raised new questions. The researchers found that women reported lower rates of absenteeism due to chronic migraine than did men.

Buse said women may be less impaired by migraine attacks than are men. Or, it could be that women take on more family responsibility that can't be delegated. "Mothers and wives may simply feel that they cannot miss a family event or drop a responsibility and so they soldier on despite debilitating pain and associated symptoms," she explained.

The research was scheduled for presentation Wednesday at the American Headache Society in Los Angeles. Because the study hasn't been published in a peer-reviewed journal, it should be viewed as preliminary.

Dr. Elizabeth Loder, chief of the division of headache and pain at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said that a weakness of the study was that people who are willing to participate in a web survey may not be representative of the total population of migraine sufferers. Loder was not associated with the study.

But Loder said the research nonetheless makes an important contribution toward better understanding the impact of chronic migraine. "This quantifies the burden, and now we're able to attach numbers to things people say happen."

Being able to better define the impact of the condition may make it easier to get the funding, attention and respect that migraines deserve, she added.

Buse hopes the study helps people better understand migraines. "I think the results may surprise some who hold the view that migraine is 'just a headache' and hopefully shed light on the far-reaching effects of this debilitating condition."

The study was funded by Allergan Inc., of Irvine, Calif., which sells Botox (also called onabotulinumtoxinA), a treatment for migraines.

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