Responding to a report on news website The Daily Caller, Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann revealed that she suffers from migraines.  Though the Daily Caller claimed that Bachmann’s migraines are so severe that she is left incapacitated for days at a time, which may negatively impact her ability to lead the country, Bachmann disputed this, saying that her condition is controlled with medication.

36 million Americans, or more than ten percent of the population, suffer from migraines, with women three times more likely to experience them than men.  Though mostly attributed to a constriction of the blood vessels in the brain, the underlying cause of migraines is unknown.  There are numerous migraine triggers, both biological and environmental, including stress, hunger, fatigue, secondhand smoke, bright lights, food allergies, certain odors such as strong perfume or paint, food additives like monosodium glutamate and aspartame, excessive caffeine intake, caffeine withdrawal and overexertion while exercising.  In addition to intense pain, migraines may also cause nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, ringing in the ears, lightheadedness and difficulty speaking.  A migraine can last anywhere between a few hours to a few days, and occasionally the pain may be so great that medical treatment may be required.

The good news is that, despite being extraordinarily painful, migraines are very rarely a sign of a more serious issue, such as a brain tumor.  Also, most migraines can be treated at home.  Over the counter medications such as Advil Migraine and Excedrin Migraine have been proven effective, as has resting in a dark, quiet room.  Drinking a caffeinated beverage may occasionally be helpful, though it should be avoided if caffeine is proven to be a trigger.  Be sure to take only the recommended dosage of any medication designed to treat headaches, as taking too much may lead to a “rebound headache” later.  If migraines are so severe that they affect the ability to go to work or school, or if a person suffers from more than one a week, prescription medication such as a beta blocker or anti-depressant should be considered.

Migraines can usually be prevented by avoiding known triggers—for instance, if bright sunlight sets off a migraine, sunglasses should probably be worn when outdoors as often as possible, even in the winter.  Keeping a “migraine diary” can help recognize patterns and potential triggers, and is useful in finding the most effective treatment.  People who suffer from frequent migraines should also make sure to get enough sleep and exercise, and avoid skipping meals.  With proper care and treatment, most migraines are a painful inconvenience that should not greatly impact a person’s ability to hold down a job, raise a family, or anything else they wish to do.  Should that cover running for President as well? What do you think?

Gena Radcliffe
Medex Supply Blogger

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