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Migraines not all in their heads?

16 May 2014, 19:15

Headaches and migraines are far more prevalent locally than publically perceived. A staggering 9 million South Africans endure headaches on a regular basis.

While results remain constant across all income groups, race, and culture; this figure accounts for about 6% of men and 18% of South African women. Hormonal changes are blamed for the higher rate amongst females.

A recent study shows that dramatic changes in estrogen levels can be linked to migraines and seizures.

The study, conducted by the Institute of Psychiatric Research in New York states that “At times of life when estrogen levels change dramatically, such as puberty, post-partum or menopause, there are also dramatic changes in the nervous system”.

Dr. Elliot Shevel, Migraine Surgeon and Medical Director at The Headache Clinic concurs that the system of arteries and veins shown in this research link migraine pain to fluctuating hormone levels. “Estrogen works directly on the structures of the brain. The study has been able to show precisely the link between these changing estrogen levels and the central nervous system”.

Shevel also maintains that despite their prevalence many women still overlook regular headaches as a serious health concern.  "As a society, we don’t pay enough attention to headaches and migraines and the impact it has on so many lives. Far too often it is considered to be something frivolous."

 The Headache Clinic’s research locally indicates 40% of migraine sufferers feel their colleagues are cynical about the severity of their condition. Nearly 74% of them feel judged when they need to take time off work.

“Women fear losing their jobs because of a lack of understanding from colleagues and employers. They feel unable to retain or progress in a position due to their attacks. In many cases this becomes a reality,” says Dr. Shevel.

Stats like these are fascinating and chilling – not only as an employer – also as a woman.

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