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Finding relief from Excruciating Headaches a challenge

It's a condition that has existed for centuries, doctors say. But only recently has it been given a name: "chronic daily headaches," or CDH, defined as migraines or neck- and head-squeezing tension headaches //that are present 15 or more days each month.

Some might think it sounds like just another excuse to skip school. But young people such as Rachel Gohmann, an 18-year-old college freshman from St. Cloud, Minnesota, know how serious the condition can be.

Blinding headaches that often left her bedridden caused her to miss more than 100 days of her senior year of high school -- with her worst migraine lasting nearly a month. Medication and a tutor helped her make it to graduation. But, now a freshman at St. Cloud State University, she's still missing some classes and making at least one trip a month to the emergency room, where she's given narcotic drugs that help her sleep.

"And that's a good month," Gohmann says. Doctors say that anywhere from 1 percent to 5 percent of the population, including young people, suffer from chronic daily headaches.

Roughly an equal number of boys and girls suffer from them in the elementary years. But once adolescence hits, young women are about three times as likely to have them, partly due to hormonal changes related to menstruation. Other factors, such as a family history of headaches, stress and depression, also can play a role for both genders.

"It's really sad because these headaches take all the pleasure out of life at a time when high school and college students should be enjoying their lives," says Dr. Michael Cutrer, a neurologist who specializes in primary headache disorders at the Mayo Clinic.

If left untreated, he says, the severity of the headaches often increases -- making it imperative that treatment begin in the early years.

Gohmann is one of Cutrer's many young patients. She says that when she first started getting the headaches last yea
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