MISDIAGNOSIS AND MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT MIGRAINE

The top neurologists today admit that Migraine is grossly misunderstood, misdiagnosed, and underdiagnosed. For example, according to noted neurologist Dr. Joel Saper, "Migraine is a serious and underestimated health problem . . . patients with Migraine are shunted along an assembly line of misdiagnosis, undertreatment, or frank mismanagement. They are subjected to unnecessary procedures and preventable consequences." It has been estimated that 60% of women and 70% of men with Migraine have never been diagnosed with Migraine.

It has been reported that over 60% of Migraine sufferers have had bad experiences with doctors, and many never return. However, much the genetic and other research on Migraine has taken place in the last few years, of which many doctors are unaware or only tangentially aware. General practitioners and others receive continuing education, but little or any of the training may involve Migraine. Overall, many physicians simply do not have updated information about Migraine. For example, the average physicians PDR (Physicians Desk Reference) is 7 years old. Headache doctors or neurologists are not necessarily Migraine specialists, and therefore if one suspects they have Migraine, they should seek a Migraine specialist.

In addition, diagnosis of Migraine can be difficult, as the symptoms and triggers vary from person to person, as do responses to treatments. In addition, Migraine pain is usually on one side of the head, but is bilateral one-third of the time. Some Migraines are accompanied by aura and nausea, some are not. Overall, unlike other diseases such as epilepsy and cancer, there is no definitive medical test for Migraine at this time. In addition, Migraine mimics, such as hypoglycemia or meningitis, are rare but real.

Notwithstanding medical criteria, some physicians are ready to assume, and some Migraineurs are ready to believe, that bad head pain is most likely attributable to stress or is simply "in their heads." They may typically tell a head-pain sufferer to reduce stress and undergo other non-drug treatment, and, even when this doesn't work, may never recommend a drug regiment for the head pain. This may apply especially to women, who account for up to 80% of Migraine sufferers, or 18 million Americans.

   

Misdiagnosis and misconceptions about Migraine are harmful to Migraineurs on several fronts.

First, misdiagnosis and misconceptions about Migraine can prevent a Migraineur from receiving proper and effective treatment, leaving the Migraines untreated. Untreated Migraines not only greatly reduce the quality of life, but can be dangerous, leading to stroke, life-threatening dental infections, aneurysms, coma and even death. Similarly, misdiagnosis of Migraine as tension headaches or depression can lead to the prescription of unneeded drugs. Taking of drugs by a person without the underlying condition is always dangerous. In addition, the tendency of Migraine sufferers to treat themselves through OTC drugs, herbs, and other methods can not only be ineffective, but dangerous, for example to pregnant women.

Misdiagnosis and misconceptions about Migraine can also lead to emergency rooms and other medical facilities to refuse to treat Migraine sufferers, as some doctors think such Migraine sufferers are just seeking medication and turn them away. (The scenario of a person faking a Migraine to receive drugs was depicted in an episode of the television show ER.) MAGNUM is working with doctors and emergency rooms to update and standardize the protocol for treating Migraine in emergency rooms.

Misdiagnosis and misconceptions about Migraine oftentimes severely damage the work and family life of Migraine sufferers. Trying to overcome misinformation about you as a Migraine sufferer can be both exhausting and fruitless. Misconceptions about Migraine as being a result solely of stress or other controllable factors makes a person be perceived by themselves and others as weak, hypochondriacs, and unproductive. Both misconceptions about Migraine and untreated Migraines typically lead to unhappy family lives, loss of respect in the workplace, loss of jobs and greatly reduced quality of lives. Children who miss school fall behind and children who have Migraines in school can be ostracized, teased, and often remain isolated.

 
Information offered at this Web site by either a lay person or a health professional should not be interpreted as giving a diagnosis or a treatment recommendation. These can only be provided by a physician who has had an opportunity to interact with a patient in person and at length, with access to the patient's previous records and appropriate follow-up.