Why Don’t Migraine Sufferers Seek Medical Help?

Despite the significant impact migraines can have on daily life, a surprising number of people hesitate to seek medical attention. A recent study revealed that nearly a third of migraine sufferers (30.5%) were reluctant to see a doctor.

Reasons for Treatment Delay

The survey, presented at the American Headache Society (AHS) 2024 Annual Meeting, involved 500 adults with migraine. Key reasons patients gave for delaying treatment included:

  • Concerns about provider dismissal: Many participants worried their complaints wouldn’t be taken seriously by healthcare professionals.
  • Belief in limited treatment options: Some patients felt doctors couldn’t offer them additional help beyond what they were already doing.
  • Unsuccessful past experiences: A significant portion of the study group reported prior negative encounters with healthcare providers regarding their migraines. The average participant consulted four different doctors before receiving an accurate diagnosis.

Survey Findings

  • Participants were mostly well-educated white females, with an average age of 40.
  • Nearly half suffered from chronic migraines, and almost all had used a CGRP monoclonal antibody medication, indicating a high disease burden. This medication class is produced by several pharmaceutical companies, but the study was funded by Eli Lilly, a company that manufactures one such drug.
  • Despite suspecting migraines beforehand, nearly 30% were surprised by the diagnosis.
  • Family and friends were the most common source of information on migraines, followed by the internet.
  • The study identified a need for improved public health communication regarding migraines and their treatment options.

Expert Commentary

Dr. Nina Riggins, commenting on the study, emphasized the importance of better migraine education for both patients and healthcare providers. She highlighted the concerning statistic of patients consulting an average of four providers before diagnosis. Dr. Riggins believes improved education will be crucial as new, more effective migraine therapies become available.

This study, though funded by Eli Lilly and with limitations regarding participant demographics, offers valuable insights. It underscores the need to improve communication and education around migraines, potentially leading to earlier diagnosis and better patient outcomes.

Posted June 2024.

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