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05 July 2006

Headache costs mount over time

The costs of permanently treating headaches and migraines climbs over time in cases where a patient either does not seek out treatment timeously.

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The costs of successfully diagnosing and permanently treating headaches and migraines climbs over time in cases where a patient either does not seek out treatment in a timely manner, or seeks treatment from healthcare professionals who are not able to bring the sufferer’s headache problems under permanent control.

That is according to a study that surveyed 180 patients who were successfully treated over a period of two years at The Headache Clinic. Of the sample, 34 patients had suffered from headache problems for two years or less, 90 patients had suffered for between two and 10 years, and 56 patients had a history of headaches that lasted for 10 years or more.

The study found that 47.1 percent (16 patients) of those that had a history of headaches or migraines of two years or less, 84 percent (76 patients) of the two to 10 year group, and 95 percent (53 patients) of the 10-plus years group, had already spent more than the total of the Headache Clinic's bill on medical help for their problem before successful permanent treatment by The Headache Clinic.

Says Dr Elliot Shevel, medical director at The Headache Clinic: “The results of this study show that apart from the pain and inconvenience that headaches and migraines cause sufferers, they also carry a heavy financial cost that spirals over time.

Huge costs
“Many patients tell stories of spending thousands of Rands with various medical professionals and on various medications in search of relief from their pain. That’s without even mentioning the massive costs of medical conditions caused or aggravated by headaches, nor what headaches cost the economy in lost productivity and headache sufferers in missed opportunities.”

“Headache and migraine pain is a real neurobiological condition that can usually be treated following proper diagnosis, but like most medical conditions, it can grow worse over time if not properly treated,” notes Shevel. “Headaches are normally caused by problems in the head and neck structures, including nerves, blood vessels and muscles.”

“These structures can be damaged so badly through years of pain and trauma that it can be difficult to restore them to their original health, if at all,” adds Shevel. “This underlines how important it is that headache conditions are brought under control quickly for the sake of the patient’s health as well as for the sake of the budgets of the headache sufferer and the medical aid.”

“Anyone who suffers from sudden or continuous headaches should seek medical attention,” says Shevel. The medical professional should be able to identify the physical structure in the patient's body that is causing the pain. With this information, the medical professional can treat the pain by attacking its root cause.

Successful treatment
Shevel says that headaches can be most successfully treated using a multidisciplinary approach since no one medical specialisation covers all the psychological and physical dimensions that impact on and are impacted by severe headaches.

A multidisciplinary approach combines and integrates the expertise of different specialists (such as neurologists, maxillo-facial and oral surgeons, dentists, and psychologists) who would normally treat headache patients in isolation, into a single body of knowledge. - Dr Elliot Shevel, Health24's Headache Expert

 
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