Understanding Migraine and Other Headaches

Understanding Migraine and Other Headaches

Understanding Migraine and Other Headaches

Understanding Migraine and Other Headaches


Provides a comprehensive overview of causes, diagnoses, and treatments.


Headaches have bedeviled humanity for all of recorded time. Even in ancient Egypt, suggestions were included in hieroglyphics on how to eliminate severe headache. The Egyptians recommended strapping a crocodile to the top of the head, which might have distracted the sufferer significantly, but advances have brought treatment to a designed, specific level undreamed of even 25 years ago.

Migraine, in particular, is becoming easier to identify and treat. Eighteen percent of women, six percent of men, and four percent of children have migraine. All races are affected, although for reasons that are unknown, whites are affected more than African Americans, and Asian Americans are least often afflicted.

Migraine is an inherited condition; many families can trace it back generations. It can be discouraging for migraine sufferers to see the disease reproduce itself in their children, and realize that the suffering will be perpetuated.

The disease has enormous economic and social consequences, both to individual sufferers and to society as a whole. A large public health study conducted by professors Richard Lipton and Walter Stewart of Albert Einstein and Johns Hopkins Schools of Medicine found that migraine is found more often in people at lower socioeconomic levels. This has been attributed to a downward spiral caused by recurrent disabling headaches. And the cost to U.S. society alone is in excess of $13 billion per year in lost work. This is a not insignificant problem—not “just a headache”—and calls for better education and treatment.

Many productive people have struggled with migraine. It is speculated that Charles Darwin suffered from migraine among other healthrelated problems that plagued him most of his adult life. Lewis Carroll had migraine with aura, and his visual aura symptoms are felt to be the basis for some of the hallucinatory scenes of Alice in Wonderland. Boswell described Samuel Johnson's headaches, which sound very migrainous. Sports figures such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in basketball . . .

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