For many women, her annual well-woman appointment may be the one time a year she speaks with a doctor about her health. And given that women suffer from migraines at a rate three times that of men, amending the Well-Women screening to include questions about the disease has the potential to benefit many women.
Updating the Well-Women Chart
The Women’s Preventive Services Initiative is the lead agency responsible for outlining screening recommendations for women by age range – from 13-17 years old to over 75. The organization annually updates the Well-Women Chart, which includes screening recommendations for topics ranging from alcohol use and contraceptive care to infectious diseases and certain cancers.
Despite the range of conditions included, neither headache nor migraine is on the chart. The Headache & Migraine Policy Forum is among the advocacy organizations working to change that.
It proposes using a simple and valid screener, ID Migraine, to help health care providers diagnose migraine disease earlier and initiate treatment. In recent years, many new treatment options have become available to prevent and acutely treat migraine disease, providing renewed hope for many patients.
Migraine Burden and Chronification
Migraine disease and headache disorders affect nearly 40 million Americans. The conditions are highly common yet still widely underdiagnosed. Migraine also disproportionately affects women and is known to peak during prime working years – from 25 to 55 years of age.
Migraine is the second most disabling disease in the world, after lower back pain. Without proper treatment, migraine can become chronic, meaning the more migraines a person has, the more vulnerable they are to having more.
The Cost of Migraine Disease
Migraine is also costly. Migraine causes more than 1.2 million visits to emergency departments each year. The painful and sometimes sudden symptoms are also a cause of loss in work productivity and daily activities.
And, like a ripple in the water, the impact of a woman’s migraine extends to her family, workplace and community. In contrast, diagnosing migraines earlier can help prevent costly emergency department visits, lessen chronic pain and retain women in the workforce.
Adding migraine screening to the Well-Women Chart is a great way to acknowledge – and is a first step toward addressing – a condition that continues to disable too many women.