08 June 2005

The cost of headaches

Migraines could cost South Africa hundreds of millions of rands a year, according to a media release from The Headache Clinic.

Migraines could cost South Africa hundreds of millions of rands a year, according to a media release from The Headache Clinic.

This week (5 to 11 June) is National Headache Awareness Week in the US, a platform used by the National Headache Foundation in that country to educate the public about the personal and economic costs of headaches, migraines in particular, and to encourage people who suffer from headaches to seek treatment.

Although no similar initiative exists in South Africa, headaches also take an enormous toll on the country's economy in the form of lost productivity and impact negatively on the professional, personal and social lives of millions of South Africans.

Nearly 10 percent of Americans get migraines
Research from the National Headache Foundation in the US shows that more than 28 million, or nearly 10 percent of, Americans experience migraine headaches of varying intensity.

A comprehensive survey from the US Foundation found that 51 percent of those experiencing migraine headaches had more than 10 attacks a month, 52 percent missed holiday celebrations due to their condition and as many as 92 percent missed a hobby-related activity.

The toll that headaches take on productivity is staggering: Migraine sufferers lose 157 million work days each year and the price tag for America's employers is $10 billion a year.

Headaches cut across cultures
"No similar survey has been conducted in South Africa as yet. However, research from around the world indicates that headache problems cut right across nations, cultures, and races, affecting a similar percentage of people in most countries,” says Dr Elliot Shevel, medical director at The Headache Clinic, the treatment arm of the South African Institute of Headache & Migraine Science.

"That means that as many as four to five million South Africans could be suffering from migraine headaches and that migraines could cost the country hundreds of millions of Rand in lost productivity each year." Shevel says that many migraine patients feel that their families, co-workers and friends do not understand the condition. Migraines can severely damage quality of life at home and at work: many patients believe that they have lost out on opportunities to advance their careers because of migraines, for example.

Migraine can be treated
"It is important that migraine patients, and those they live and work with, understand that migraine pain is a real neurobiological disease that can be treated following proper diagnosis," he adds.

Shevel says that headaches come in a variety of forms, the most common of which is the tension headache. The migraine is a category of its own, with symptoms that include throbbing head pain, nausea and sensitivity to noise and light. An attack can last between four and 72 hours. Migraines are hereditary and three times more prevalent among women than men.

Patients can take control of their condition by seeking treatment and keeping track of the factors (stress, diet and so on) that seem to trigger their migraines.

"People who suffer from migraines do not need to live with a condition that undermines their quality of life. Healthcare providers can help to find the underlying causes of each patient's pain and provide treatment that will prevent the recurrence of the headaches,” concludes Shevel. – (Health24)


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Headache expert

Dr Elliot Shevel is a South African migraine surgery pioneer and the founder and medical director of The Headache Clinic in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, South Africa. The Headache Clinic is a multidisciplinary practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of Primary Headaches and Migraines. Dr Shevel is also the main author of all scientific publications generated by his team. He recently won a high level science debate in which he was able to prove that the current migraine diagnosis and classification is not based on data. Tertiary Education - Dr Shevel holds both Dental and Medical degrees, and practises as a specialist Maxillo-facial and Oral Surgeon. Follow the Headache Clinic on Twitter@HeadacheClinic.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules