Chronic Migraine is More Than Just Headaches

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June is migraine awareness month. It is a great opportunity to remember that this neurological disorder is complex and to distinguish chronic migraine from episodic migraine. Chronic migraine is characterized by 15 headache days or more per month, affects 1.4 to 2.2 percent of the population, or nearly 370,000 Canadians, and is the 19th most debilitating disease according to the World Health Organization. "One of the main issues is that only 20 percent of patients are well diagnosed and treated, which is why we must do everything we can to raise public awareness," states Dr. Martin Veilleux, a neurologist at the Queen Elizabeth Health Complex in Montreal.

Dr. Veilleux treats more than a hundred patients for chronic migraine and says that it is one of the most misunderstood neurological disorders. Both men and women are affected by chronic migraine. Women, however, are three times more likely to suffer from them. "All too often, the seriousness of the disorder is downplayed. Mild headaches and episodic headaches are very common among the general population and are often confused with chronic migraine, which is therefore not taken seriously enough. Yet chronic migraine can have a significant negative impact on a person's social and family life and seriously affect their productivity at work," adds Dr. Veilleux. Numerous studies show that, for a patient suffering from chronic migraine, the number of days where productivity at work is decreased by more than 50 percent is three to five times more than that of a patient with episodic migraine. Hence the importance of making the right diagnosis and of treating patients adequately.

The new website, mychronicmigraine.ca, provides a range of information about chronic migraine as well as a list of specialists treating this condition in Canada. Before seeing your family doctor to determine whether you or a relative suffer from chronic migraines, it is advisable to keep a record of your headaches and migraines, including their intensity and the pain relievers taken.