National Survey Shows Majority of Migraine Sufferers Misdiagnose Severe Head Pain

National Headache Foundation Launches Awareness Campaign

to Shed Light on Misdiagnosis and Treatment of Migraine

Jan 08, 2004, 00:00 ET from National Headache Foundation

    CHICAGO, Jan. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Nearly one out of three migraine and/or
 severe headache sufferers would rather have a root canal than a migraine,
 according to the results of a recent nationwide survey being released today by
 the National Headache Foundation (NHF).  Additionally, 32 percent of
 self-reported migraineurs have not been diagnosed by a physician, and a
 majority admit having attributed their migraines to stress or tension
 headaches and/or sinus pressure.  These data illustrate the debilitating
 nature of migraines and highlight the issue of under-diagnosis and
 misdiagnosis of migraines in the U.S.  According to the NHF, an estimated
 12 million migraine sufferers are still undiagnosed.
     "Proper diagnosis and treatment of migraines is crucial to improving the
 quality of life for migraineurs," says Merle Diamond, M.D., associate director
 of the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago and NHF spokesperson.  "Therefore,
 the NHF is launching an awareness initiative to encourage sufferers to learn
 more about migraine by visiting  This website can also help
 foster a more productive dialogue between sufferers and their healthcare
 provider so that they can receive proper treatment for their headaches."
     According to the survey, self-reported severe headache sufferers (n=105)
 are not fully aware of the different symptoms that could indicate that a
 severe headache may actually be a migraine. The symptoms most identified with
 a migraine were sensitivity to light and sound (79 percent),
 pulsing/throbbing/pounding on one side of the head (71 percent), visual
 disturbances or light flashes (69 percent), and nausea (64 percent).  However,
 fewer than half identified neck pain (48 percent), watery eyes (20 percent)
 and runny nose (eight percent) as possible symptoms of a migraine.
     Untreated or mistreated migraines can significantly reduce the quality of
 life for migraine sufferers and have a major impact on their daily activities.
 The survey showed that more than half of self-reported migraineurs said their
 social activities (60 percent), productivity/work attendance (59 percent) and
 time with family (56 percent) were most affected by the onset of their
 migraine pain.
     Nearly two-thirds of self-reported migraineurs said that they have relied
 on rest and meditation to alleviate symptoms and 66 percent said that they
 have used over-the-counter medications to treat their migraines.
     "Over-the-counter headache medications are not always the most appropriate
 form of treatment. There are a number of prescription medications designed to
 specifically target migraines, and these may be effective for the patient,"
 says Dr. Diamond. "It is likely that many migraineurs suffer needlessly due to
 lack of knowledge and improper self-diagnosis."
     About the Survey
     The omnibus survey, conducted by Harris Interactive via telephone during
 November 28-30, 2003, interviewed more than 1,000 American adults comprising
 of 509 men and 511 women. The survey was funded by GlaxoSmithKline.
     About Migraine
     Migraine is a neurobiological disorder that affects 28 million Americans
 and can be disabling, as evidenced by missed days of work, lost time with
 family and friends, and a disrupted daily routine. Migraine is characterized
 by recurrent bad headaches lasting 4 to 72 hours (untreated) and with symptoms
 including moderate to severe headache pain, throbbing head pain, head pain
 located on one side of the head, head pain aggravated by routine activity,
 nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.  Menstrually associated
 migraine is clinically defined as migraine headaches that occur anywhere from
 two days prior to menstrual flow through the third or fourth day of the
 woman's period.  In 10-14 percent of women who suffer from menstrually
 associated migraine, the migraine occurs around the time of their period and
 no other time.
     About The National Headache Foundation
     The National Headache Foundation, founded in 1970, is a nonprofit
 organization dedicated to serving headache sufferers, their families and the
 healthcare providers who treat them; promoting research into headache causes
 and treatments; and educating the public to the fact that headaches are a
 legitimate biological disease and sufferers should receive understanding and
 continuity of care. For more information on headache causes and treatment
 options visit the National Headache Foundation Web site at
 or call toll-free 1-888-NHF-5552.

SOURCE National Headache Foundation