And, Young added, "When people treat my patients as if they are to blame because they have a severe, debilitating disease, they are contributing to the problem and making life harder for them."
The study, by Young and colleagues at Thomas Jefferson and Rutgers University, was published online Jan. 16 in the journal PloS One.
To see how people with migraine were treated, Young's team collected data on 123 people with episodic migraine (defined as 14 or fewer headaches per month), 123 people with chronic migraine (more than 14 headaches per month with eight meeting the criteria for migraine), and 62 people with epilepsy. To evaluate these participants, the researchers used a so-called stigma scale for chronic illness.
Epilepsy patients were chosen for comparison because their condition, which can cause seizures, is known to carry a stigma for many people, the researchers noted.
The investigators found that people with chronic migraine scored significantly higher on the stigma score (54) than those with episodic migraine (42) and even higher than those with epilepsy (45).
Adjusting the scores for other factors, Young and colleagues found the score roughly equal for people with epilepsy and chronic migraine, while the scores for those with episodic migraine were much lower.
People with chronic migraine tended to miss more days of work than those with epilepsy. Many with migraine need bed rest during the day of the migraine, which can occurr several times during the month, the researchers noted.
As Rosen pointed out, migraine is often considered "just a headache," not a major health problem.
In Young's clinic, however, 25 percent of migraine patients cannot hold a job because of the disease and many more suffer seve
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