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Migraine headaches cost employers billions in lost productivity

June 12, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Thirty-six-million Americans get migraines. Most are women. Many don't seek treatment due to misdiagnosis or lack of awareness. Researchers say people don't have to suffer because there are ways to get the symptoms under control.

A storm of metabolic changes occurs when you're experiencing a migraine headache. Dr. Andrew Charles, director of the UCLA Headache Research and Treatment Program, says that's why patients experience numerous symptoms.

"People can have nausea. Typically there's sensitivity to light, sound, smell and touch, so there's sensory sensitivity of all kind," said Charles.

The assault occurs throughout the brain, yet migraine say the pain is specific.

Since hormone fluctuations can play a part, it's one of the reasons migraines affect more women than men.

"Five percent of women, one in 20, has a headache more than 15 days out of the month," said Charles.

The Women Impacting Public Policy group estimates that migraines cost employers $13 billion in lost productivity each year.

"People do show up to work because they have to, but they're really not functional," said Charles.

He recommends migraine sufferers get regular sleep, eat healthy and exercise regularly.

Find a doctor who understands how to manage and control migraine pain with the proper medications.

Stress management is a trigger for some who seek massages, but Charles says massages don't work if you're having an attack.

"Oftentimes during an attack they don't want anybody touching them because it's very uncomfortable. Just like light and sound is uncomfortable, touch is uncomfortable," said Charles.

Dr. Charles believes education will help raise awareness among employers and sufferers. Also, brain scans prove migraines are more than just "in a person's head."

"This is quite a spectacular neurological event, and not simply just someone complaining of a headache," said Charles.

Besides cutting back on caffeine, Charles says other non-drug methods to reduce headaches include daily supplements of magnesium, riboflavin, Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and melatonin.