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Is Your Doctor in Touch With Current Research?

Being an informed patient sometimes means feeling like you know more than your doctor does. Sometimes this isn’t just a feeling, but a fact.

In Why Doesn’t My Doctor Know This?, Dr. Kent Holtorf explains that “. . . [T]he overwhelming majority (all but a few percent) of physicians (endocrinologists, internists, family practitioners, rheumatologists, etc.) do not read medical journals. When asked, most doctors will claim that they routinely read medical journals, but this has been shown not to be the case.”

I don’t want to believe this statement, but with schedules crammed tight and overwhelming paperwork, it’s no surprise that some docs can’t keep up on all the research in their fields.

So the patient must step in. If you read about new study findings, look into more yourself. Many of the news articles will parrot each other, but dig around for the study abstract for more details. If the study is only of people with migraine with aura, and you don’t have auras, there’s no indication that you will benefit from the treatment in the article.

Don’t just bring in an article and ask, “What can you tell me about this?” Take concrete questions to your doctor. Does this treatment apply to you? Have other studies supported its findings? If your doc can’t answer your questions right away, ask that he or she get back to you.

If your doctor doesn’t act on the information, don’t assume that he or she is lazy or unwilling to work with you. One study does not prove a treatment is effective, future studies frequently contradict previously published research, or the approach may not be right for you.

However, if you feel like you are frequently stonewalled, being disrespected or not adequately treated, there’s always the option of shopping for another doctor.

[via We Are Advocates]

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National Headache Foundation Answers Frequently Asked Questions

In one comprehensive page, the National Headache Foundation responds to common questions about migraine as well as tension-type, cluster, sinus, rebound headaches. The short answers include links to comprehensive information. Questions include:

  • Does weather affect migraines?
  • What are the triptans?
  • What alternative therapies are used to treat migraine?
  • What is biofeedback?
  • Are headaches hereditary?
  • What type of doctor should I see to diagnose and treat my headache?

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Explaining What Chronic Daily Headache and Migraine Are Like

Explaining to my family, friends and employers that my migraines are debilitating has been challenging. There are many misconceptions about headache disorders and migraine, so people don’t understand the difference between an occasional headache and CDH or migraine.

The best way I’ve found to let those around me know the seriousness of this illness is to let them see me in the throes of a migraine (which is not an easy feat). If the people in your life are willing to talk about your pain, there are many good resources to explain the severity of the illness.

The best resource I have found is a book called Chronic Pain and the Family, which I reviewed on Blogcritics. (If you decide to buy the book, I’d appreciate it if you went to Amazon through the link from my blog rather than Blogcritics — it helps pay for The Daily Headache.)

There are other good resources that won’t cost you anything, like these significant facts about migraine:

  • Between 28 million and 35 million (depending on which estimate you look at) Americans have migraines
  • Of these migraine sufferers, 91 percent aren’t able to function normally during a migraine
  • An estimated $17 billion in health care and lost labor costs result annually from adults suffering from migraines

The National Headache Foundation has terrific information on how headache affects a sufferer’s life. This fact sheet (PDF) describes migraine and its suspected mechanics. It even recommends a children’s book that explains the disease to kids. ACHE also has good information.

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Children & Headaches

Nearly every child has a headache at some point. Like in adults, an occasional headache is normal. Although headaches are typically benign, they could signal something serious. If kids have headaches frequently or the headache seems different than usual, it’s time to see a doctor.

Contact a doctor if your child’s headaches:

  • Occur at least once a month
  • Keep him or her out of school
  • Follow an injury, such as a blow to the head
  • Awaken him or her from sleep
  • Feature persistent vomiting or visual changes
  • Are accompanied by fever, along with neck pain or stiffness

Causes of headaches in children include a genetic predisposition (especially to migraine), head trauma, illness and infection, environmental factors, emotional factors, and certain foods and beverages. See the Mayo Clinic article in the above link for details about these causes.

Information comes from the Mayo Clinic. See Headaches in Children: Common, But Sometimes Serious to learn about causes, types of headaches, diagnosis and treatment. The National Headache Foundation also has a guide to children’s headaches, which even has a section for kids to explore.

Your child having headaches isn’t a reason to panic, but it isn’t something to ignore.

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Must-Read Time Article on Headache

A 2002 Time cover article on headache describes current migraine research — and the heretofore lack of said research — and what it means for people with headache. As the article says, “What [the research] all adds up is a revolutionary view of extreme headaches that treats them as serious, biologically based disorders on a par with epilepsy or Alzheimer’s disease.”

It’s a hopeful piece that shares the fascinating biology of headache as well as what headache sufferers actually go through. Although the article is three years old, it’s a step toward educating others that Tylenol doesn’t trounce migraines, chronic daily headaches and cluster headaches.

Now articles need to use this quote from the book Migraine and Other Headaches:

“In general, headache sufferers are worse off than people who have arthritis, roughly similar to those who have congestive heart failure severe enough to interfere with walking up and down stairs and only slightly better than people with AIDS.” (from All in My Head, by Paula Kamen, page 282)

The Time article is a must-read for people with headache and their loved ones. And it includes an awesome graphic of the path of a headache (you’ll find it under the graphics section of the sidebar).