Entries in Migraines (15)


Man Plagued by Porn-Induced Headaches

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW DELHI, India) -- A man plagued by porn-induced headaches has to take painkillers 30 minutes before watching the X-rated movies, according to a case study. The unnamed "unmarried male software professional," 24, complained of "severe, exploding" headaches that developed gradually and peaked 10 minutes into the sexy scenes.

"Progressively, he started to refrain from viewing videos as a means of avoiding headaches," researchers from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University in New Delhi, India, wrote in the case study published in the June issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior.

The cause of the man's ill-timed headaches, triggered only by porn and not by sex or masturbation, is unclear.

"This guy is interesting because he's just watching porn and not actually having sex," said Dawn Buse, associate professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and director of behavioral medicine at the Montefiore Headache Center in New York. "But he probably still gets aroused and excited, which may be even worse than having sex because there's no release."

Buse said about one percent of the population -- mostly males -- gets headaches associated with sexual activity. But even arousal can cause changes in muscle tension, nerve sensitivity and blood flow in the brain that boost the perception of pain, she said.

"It makes sense," she said. "There's definitely blood pumping through his head and his body."

Like exercise-induced headaches, sex headaches are nothing more than a nuisance, easily negated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, Buse said. But in rare cases, the pain can signal something more serious, like a brain tumor or an aneurysm.

"If someone has a stiff neck, dizziness or confusion along with the pain, they should talk to a doctor," Buse said.

The man, ready to abandon his porn-watching ways, was instead advised to take 400 milligrams of ibuprofen and 500 milligrams of acetaminophen 30 minutes in advance, to which, according to the study, "he reported significant pain relief."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Did Texas Rangers' Announcer Have On-Air Stroke?

Lee Blankenship/Workbook Stock/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It was the bottom of the eighth inning as the San Diego Padres took on the Texas Rangers when the audience heard the Rangers announcer have what sounded like an on-air medical meltdown, which some took as a sign of a stroke.

Dave Barnett's play-by-play of Monday night's baseball game took a bizarre turn when he began to speak about a botched robbery and henchman in the midst of the game.

"[The] Go-ahead run is at fifth ... on what Adams is insisting on calling a botched robbery. What actually happened was his henchman …," the announcer rambled incoherently.

Monday night's broadcast went silent for several seconds as Barnett's microphone may have been switched off. Many fans now fear that the veteran announcer was having a stroke.

Barnett eventually recovered, and this morning the Rangers told ABC News that the long-time announcer believed the incident "to be the recurrence of migraine headaches."

This is not the first time something like this has happened to an on-air personality on live television. Last February Serene Branson, a seasoned CBS Los Angeles reporter, gave a garbled report during the Grammys. She was later diagnosed with migraine-related symptoms.

Doctors say sometimes the symptoms pass quickly, but that incoherent speech could also warn of a stroke.

"Part of a blood vessel can rupture, such as a balloon in an aneurysm. Those need to be treated early," Dr. Jim Moody, a neurosurgeon at Methodist Dallas Medical Center, told ABC News.

Barnett did go on to finish the rest of Monday's game, but he'll sit out the next two while he undergoes further tests.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Botox a Boon for Some Headaches, Dud for Others

Mark Sullivan/WireImage(NEW YORK) -- Research showing the wrinkle-buster Botox helps treat chronic migraines may be good news for some headache sufferers -- but it turns out that if you suffer from some other type of headache, you may be better off reaching for another remedy.

A new review of research published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association demonstrated that botulinum toxin A -- which is best known by the brand name Botox -- can benefit patients who have chronic migraines, but it does not help those who have episodic migraines or chronic tension-type headaches.

Migraine headaches can cause intense throbbing or pulsing in the head and is commonly accompanied by nausea, vomiting and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Chronic migraine patients are those who experience more than 15 migraines a month, while episodic migraine sufferers have fewer than 15 migraines a month.

By contrast, tension-type headaches are actually the most common type of headache, and patients who experience them more than 15 times a month are said to suffer from chronic tension headaches. They are usually described as a diffuse, mild to moderate pain that’s often described as feeling like a tight band around the sufferer’s head. According to the new review, all that these patients may get from Botox are fewer wrinkles.

Allergan, the makers of Botox, released a statement to ABC News following the publication of the review.

“These clinically relevant outcomes are further bolstered by real-world patient experience where treatment with Botox has resulted in headache-free days and headache-free hours, significantly decreasing the burden of the condition on their day-to-day lives,” the statement reads.

But even for migraine sufferers, it may not be a magic bullet.

“Botox works for some [migraine] patients, and when it works, it works dramatically well,” Dr. Joel Saper, director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, told ABC News. “It does not work for all patients, and it’s very difficult to predict who it will work for.

“Remember, this is group data so some patients will have a dramatic benefit and some have no benefit.  Some people will declare [Botox] as a miracle and some people will call it a dud.”

The finding that episodic migraines and chronic tension type headaches had no benefit with Botox highlights the importance of having an accurate diagnosis for the type of headache.

Chronic migraines affect approximately 6 million people in the United States, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. These headaches may lead to a variety of other effects, including missed work days and frequent emergency room visits.

Plastic surgeons first found that Botox could help tame migraines when patients treated cosmetically with Botox noticed that their migraines had improved.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Migraine Headaches: New Guidelines Focus on Prevention

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- From prescription pills to poisonous plants, plenty of treatments can help prevent migraines, according to new guidelines from the American Academy of Neurology.

The updated guidelines could help some of the country's 30 million "migraineurs" reduce the frequency and severity of their headaches.

"About 38 percent of people who suffer from migraines could benefit from preventive treatments, but only less than a third of these people currently use them," said Dr. Stephen Silberstein, director of the Jefferson Headache Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and lead author of the guidelines released Monday.

Migraines are a type of headache often accompanied by nausea, sensitivity to sound and "aura," or visual symptoms. Acute treatments can ease the ache once it's started. But people with frequent migraines are advised to try daily therapies to prevent the pain and dampen the dread of when and where the next headache will hit.

"People who have relatively mild migraines that come infrequently and respond well to acute treatments, those people don't need preventive therapy," said Dr. Richard Lipton, director of the Montefiore Headache Center in New York City. "But if you're losing more than 10 days per month to your migraines, it's probably worth taking medication on a daily basis."

Silberstein and colleagues reviewed the slew of studies on migraine prevention to tease out treatments that were proved to work from ones that were probably ineffective. Among those with "established efficacy" were anti-seizure drugs such as topiramate, blood pressure-lowering drugs called beta-blockers, and inflammation-blocking extracts from the toxic butterbur plant.

"There are many, many different treatments and they have many effects on brain physiology," said Dr. Joel Saper, director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor. "Some people need one kind of an effect to feel better; some need another. Some need multiple treatments at the same time."

Preventive treatments that are considered "probably effective" include antidepressants such as amitriptyline, over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen, and natural supplements such as riboflavin.

"Some people say, 'I really don't want be on a medication," said Dr. Audrey Halpern, a neurologist at NYU Langone's Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health in New York City. "It may be appropriate for them to start with a natural supplement or other complementary therapy to get them going."

But Halpern stressed that "natural" doesn't necessarily mean "safe."

"Some supplements may interact with other medications," she said. "It's really important for people to talk to their doctors before starting any therapy."

One natural supplement, butterbur extract, has been used to treat migraine for more than 500 years. But only recently was its migraine-fighting potential proved in a clinical trial.

"The great thing about butterbur is it has a very favorable side effect profile," said Lipton, cautioning that supplements were not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "One of the issues with natural compounds is they're very complex. It's a very complex biochemical soup."

Some of the treatments listed in the guidelines are FDA-approved to treat migraines. But many are approved for other conditions and used off-label in migraineurs.

"The fascinating thing about migraine prevention is almost all the therapies we have were developed for another purpose and discovered to work in migraine prevention by chance alone," said Lipton, describing how drugs designed for epilepsy and hypertension were found to work haphazardly in headache sufferers. "But I think we're moving into an era where we can develop designer drugs specifically for migraine."

The new guidelines are similar to those from 2000 with a few changes: Topiramate is now considered effective in migraine prevention; and gabapentin and verapamil were downgraded from "probably effective" to a category of treatments with "inadequate" evidence to support or refute its use. But experts emphasize the guidelines are not the be-all, end-all.

"They're useful as a starting point," said Saper, adding that difficult cases often required drugs not listed in general guidelines. "Many people respond well to drugs that don't help most other people, and those drugs don't get listed because there's not enough evidence of a generalized benefit."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Understanding 'Brain Freeze' May Be Key to Migraine Treatment

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While most of us love ice cream, we certainly don't love the jarring headache, commonly known as "brain freeze," that happens to some people after eating it.

What causes this phenomenon has long baffled scientists, but in new research presented at this year's Experimental Biology meeting, scientists may have identified the cause as a change in the brain's blood flow associated with consuming cold drinks or desserts.

Researchers led by Jorge Serrador of Harvard Medical School and the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center of the Veterans Affairs New Jersey Health Care System induced brain freeze in 13 adults.  They monitored subjects' blood flow using diagnostic imaging while they sipped ice water with the straw pressing on the upper palate, and then while they sipped room-temperature water.

Participants raised their hands once the ice cream headache hit and then again when the pain went away.  The researchers found that blood flow increased rapidly in one of the arteries of the brain at the onset of brain freeze, and diminished when the pain receded.

Serrador said in a statement that the study, which isn't yet published, suggests that the increased blood flow can cause pain and the quick arterial constriction that follows may serve to bring pressure down.

He also explained that changes in blood flow to the brain may play a role in migraines and other types of headaches.  If subsequent studies confirm these findings, they could have implications for treatment.  Drugs that prevent the sudden arterial dilation could potentially be an effective remedy for these debilitating headaches.

But experts not involved in the study argued that the majority of headaches are not caused by alterations in blood flow.  Migraine, for example, is widely considered to be a brain disorder, not a blood vessel disorder.

"We have known for decades that migraine is caused by nerve dysfunction.  There may be vascular changes, but they are only secondary," said Dr. Teshamae Monteith, director of the headache program at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine.  "Patients experience warning symptoms such as food cravings, frequent yawning, fatigue, and neck stiffness a day before the pain, suggesting that migraine is a state of brain dysfunction as opposed to one of vascular dysfunction."

Dr. Joel Saper, director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, added that the study doesn't seem to provide any evidence that the altered blood flow actually caused the pain.

"It could be that the cold is irritating the nerve and it's causing pain, and maybe the blood flow is the result of the pain, or the result of something being that cold," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Plastic Surgery Used in Some Patients to Heal Migraines

Stockbyte/​Thinkstock(CLEVELAND) -- Since high school, Michael Calderone's migraine headaches have been so crushing that at times he could not function.

"I would come home in the summer after working and go pass out in a dark room with a headache so bad I would lose the rest of the day," said Calderone, a 52-year-old who runs a building electronics company in Cleveland. "I was totally dysfunctional until I passed out."

The headaches only got worse as he grew older.

"If it hit in the morning, I would lose a whole day and the next day until it would cycle down," he said. "No bright lights, no stress, no activity at all -- just not to agitate your head so it would not get worse."

That was until he met Dr. Bahman Guyuron, chair of the department of plastic and reconstructive surgery at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

Guyuron had pioneered a surgical technique that he had discovered by accident while doing cosmetic surgery on women.

In July 2008, Guyuron gave Calderone a forehead lift, freeing entrapped nerves behind his eyes that had caused chronic and excruciating pain on the left side of his face.

And today, the migraines are gone.

"At one point I was getting them every day -- I was incapacitated," said Calderone. "Now, I feel like I have my life back."

According to the Migraine Research Foundation, an estimated 36 million Americans -- about 10 percent of the population, suffer from migraines. They are not just headaches, but an array of neurological symptoms that can include throbbing head pain, nausea and visual disturbances.

Migraine ranks in the top 20 of the most disabling medical conditions. Three times as many women as men are afflicted, according to the foundation, which funds research and provides medical resources for patients.

Migraines tend to run in families. Both Calderone's 21-year-old daughter and his niece have them.

Attacks can last between four and 72 hours and may include nausea, vomiting, as well as extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell. Tingling or numbness can also occur in the extremities or face.

But now, plastic surgeons, many of whom have been trained under Guyuron, are offering nerve decompression surgery. He theorizes that 90 percent of all migraines are caused by irritation of the peripheral branches of the trigeminal nerve.

Guyuron first discovered the connection between migraine and nerve compression by muscles, vessels and bone 12 years ago.

"A surgeon's wife had a forehead lift and came for a follow-up with me," he said. "She told me she was not only happy with the way she looked, but she hadn't had a migraine for the previous six months."

"I thought it was a coincidence, but another patient told me the same thing," said Guyuron.

So he investigated 314 patients who had undergone forehead lifts over the previous decade, revealing that 31 of 39 who reported migraine headaches saw "significant improvement."

A Guyuron-led study published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in 2009; found that nearly 85 percent of patients who underwent the nerve decompression surgery had a 50 percent reduction in migraine.

His work suggests that migraine arises from irritation in the nerves, which releases toxins and begins a "cascade of events that end up being a full-blown migraine in the head."

According to Guyuron, there are four common trigger points on the face and four less common ones. Most are on the forehead, temple, back of the head and behind the eyes.

"Each one has a different mechanism and reason for the nerves being irritated, and we have developed a surgical technique for each trigger," he said.

Surgery is done on an outpatient basis and lasts about 45 minutes to an hour for each trigger point that is deactivated. In three out of four cases, it is a muscle that is compressing the nerve, though it can be bone or even the cartilage of a deviated septum.

Guyuron first tests a patient with Botox, which paralyzes the muscle, to see if it has a positive effect. "If they respond to Botox, I know they will respond to surgery well," he said.

But Cathy Glaser, a retired lawyer and founder of the Migraine Research Foundation, said she is not convinced surgery is a cure-all for migraines.

"It's a very complex disease and there are difference kinds of migraines and we don't know the cause," she said.

Nerve decompression is only one of about five different surgical techniques from repairing a hole in the heart to implanting electrodes to stimulate the nerves.

"Surgical interventions are really an end-of-the-line treatment and not something you are going to do when you are first diagnosed," said Glaser. "It's very extreme and there are side effects."

Infection and bleeding can occur, as well as some numbness associated with the surgery that can be long-lasting or permanent. Rarely, minimal hair loss around the incision site can result.

She said studies have been in a population that is small and very selective -- those for whom other therapies have been unsuccessful.

Insurance companies are reluctant to cover the procedure while it is still considered somewhat experimental. "The measure of efficacy is different in a lot of studies -- there isn't a gold standard," she said.

Causes of migraine can include hormonal fluctuation, particularly in women, and genetic disposition. If one parent has migraine, a child has a 40 percent chance of developing it. With both parents, it rises to 90 percent, according to Glaser.

Such was the case with her daughter Samantha, who has had migraines since the age of 3 -- nearly daily since seventh grade.

Glaser and her husband began the organization seven years ago when they saw that there was no foundation dedicated to research and a paucity of information.

While Samantha was in residential treatment at the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute, they saw "people of all ages whose lives were destroyed by headaches."

Today, Samantha Semlitz is 23 and supports her parents' work. Despite daily pain, she is getting her master's degree in early childhood education at Fordham University and teaches at a school in Harlem.

Her headaches build during the day to a crescendo of "throbbing pain" at night. Semlitz is on medication and said she would not consider surgery -- at least not yet.

"I have thought about it, but decided against it," she said. "I am not that desperate."

"I've had it them so long, I have learned to cope with them," she said. "I haven't known anything different."

But she is eager to see more research and helps monitor a Facebook page for the foundation and a group page for those who suffer from migraine.

And she continues to work for more research, but understands the challenges in fundraising.

"It's hard," said Semlitz. "Because people don't die from migraine -- you can't pull out the death card."

But she knows how desperate patients are. "You feel completely incapacitated, and feel like you are dying."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Migraines Linked to Depression in Women

Hemera/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- According to a new study, women with a history of migraines are 41 percent more likely to develop depression than their migraine-free counterparts.

"Our study shows that migraine is a potential risk factor for depression," said study author Dr. Tobias Kurth, a neuroepidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "If you have a chronic intermittent pain condition, you may be more likely to develop depressive symptoms or even depression because you're so bothered by the pain. And it's also possible the conditions share similar pathophysiological features in the brain."

The study followed 36,154 women, 6,456 of whom had a history of migraines. Over an average of 14 years, 3,971 women developed depression -- a diagnosis much more common among migraine sufferers. Kurth and colleagues will present their results in April at the American Academy of Neurology's 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

Dr. Joel Saper, director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute, said the study confirms a long-suspected link between migraines and depression.

"They can intermingle with each other, and they can masquerade each other," said Saper, adding that both conditions have genetic routes. "And having one makes the other one worse."

Previous studies have found people with depression are more likely to get migraines, suggesting the risk goes both ways.

"It emphasizes the importance of treating both conditions at the same time," said Saper. "Sometimes we can treat both with the same medication."

Migraine and depression are more common in women than in men, which Saper attributes to fluctuations estrogen levels.

"Estrogen makes both of these worse," he said, describing the headaches and mood changes often triggered by the menstrual cycle. "Women are more prone to depression and more prone to migraines, and women who take oral contraceptives are often worse off."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Colorado Mom Can't Remember Leaving Kids, Walking 12 Miles

Matthew Hatfield(DENVER) -- A Colorado mom who does not remember leaving her two young sons in a van and disappearing for hours is being examined Monday by doctors for clues into what happened.

Police arrested the 26-year-old woman for child abuse and are eager for answers; a handgun has gone missing from the woman's home.

Almost 12 hours after leaving her two sons, ages 2 and 4, in a van parked at a Thornton, Colo. gas station Saturday, Sarah Hatfield said she could not remember leaving her boys, nor could she explain how she arrived outside National Jewish Hospital in Denver around midnight that night.

"She called me and said, 'I don't know how I got here, but I'm here. Please come get me,'" Hatfield's husband Matthew told ABC News. "She was frantic and crying and sobbing and just confused. We just have no idea what happened." 

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Hatfield, who has a history of insomnia and debilitating migraines, was arrested and charged with two counts of misdemeanor child abuse. She is currently undergoing tests at a local hospital for a possible seizure disorder.

"There's no doubt that people can have a seizure and afterwards be confused, be lethargic and have an impairment of memory for what happened shortly before," said Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of the NYU Langone Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. Devinsky, who has not examined Hatfield, said seizures can lead to a fugue state. "Most of the time it's brief. A fugue state lasting for hours would be very uncommon, but it certainly can occur."

Devinsky said insomnia and migraines are more common among people with seizure disorders, but they can signal other problems, too.

"It's possible is may have been a psychotic episode, unconsciously motivated, where there's a reaction to some stressor," said Devinsky. "It could also be a conscious thing -- life just got to be too much. And after realizing they shouldn't have done something, the person has to come up with a story."

At around 2:30 Saturday afternoon, Thornton police responded to a call from the gas station alerting them to an abandoned gold van in the parking lot. Inside police found the two boys, as well as Hatfield's wallet, cell phone and keys.

"We did an extensive search of the area and filed a missing persons report," said Thornton police spokesman Matt Barnes. Hatfield seemed disoriented when she was found 10 hours later after asking a security guard at National Jewish Hospital to use a phone to call home, according to police.

When police arrived at the hospital, "She advised she could not remember what had happened from the time she pulled into the gas station to the time she arrived at National Jewish," said Barnes. "She didn't suspect foul play or abduction, nor was she injured."

But she was sore, possibly from walking 12 miles down Interstate 25.

A handgun normally locked away in the Hatfield home is also missing, Matthew Hatfield said.

"I don't know when it went missing," he said of the gun, which was last seen around New Years. "It's possible that if we are dealing with a seizure disorder, it could have gone missing at any point."

Thornton Police are requesting a search warrant for the van hoping to recover the missing weapon.

Matthew Hatfield said his wife's behavior is out of character, adding she's never been in trouble before and doesn't do drugs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Overcoming Pain: Can a Pacemaker Cure Migraines?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Thirteen years ago Kelly Ampascher woke up with a massive headache. It was a crushing, nauseating migraine, and it's never gone away. Years of misery nearly wrecked her life.

"I was in a doctoral program and I had quit school...I had to leave my job," said Ampascher.

Doctors tried everything -- 44 different drugs -- and nothing worked. Then, Amspacher found Dr. Stephen Silberstein, a leading headache specialist at Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson Hospital.

"About 40 percent of women aged 30 to 40 have had an attack of migraine," said Silberstein. He says women, with surges and dips in hormones, are more susceptible to migraines than men.

There are women who say they lost their jobs and can't function. Their family lives suffer.

"I hear it every day. We get the worst of the worst. Here people not only have bad attacks of migraines, but they have them almost every day," said Silberstein. "Their life is almost a continuous migraine hell."

Desperate, Ampascher learned that Silberstein was conducting a study that might offer a ray of hope. It was a wire that resembled a spaghetti noodle called a neurostimulator. It acts like a pacemaker and was implanted inside of Ampascher's body, just below her hip. Two wires were then threaded up her spine to the nerves at the base of her neck.

Whenever a migraine hits, she uses a remote control to send tiny electrical impulses which interrupt the pain signals shooting into her head.

"When I woke up from the anesthesia and they turned the unit on and found the appropriate stimulation settings...I noticed the pain was down to like a zero," she said. "I didn't have any pain at all."

"The concept is very simple," said Silberstein. "If you hurt your hand and you rub it, it feels better. That's because one type of stimulation turns down the pain."

Right now, the stimulator is only being used for the very worst of migraines, and while it is widely available in Europe, it is still in the trial phase here in the United States. But with half of the test patients reporting fewer headaches, this device offers long-awaited hope to those living with pain.

"We've had patients who've had pain every day of their life, they've had 60 or 80 percent improvement," said Silberstein. "They've got their lives back."

"It has freed me immensely," said Ampascher. "I am able to engage more with family and friends...I have gone back to being my outgoing, very perky self."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Can High Heels Trigger Migraines?

Thomas Northcut/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- As Rep. Michele Bachmann's severe migraines hit the headlines this week, The Daily Caller website reported that the Minnesota Republican has -- to her staff -- "implausibly blamed the headaches on uncomfortable high-heel shoes."

So, can wearing high-heels trigger debilitating migraines?

Dr. Lucas Bachmann, a medical resident at University of Connecticut and the congresswoman's son, told The New York Times that his mother had noticed a connection between the headaches and her wearing high-heel shoes.

"Different things do trigger migraines, and it's not easy to automatically discount that," said Dr. Joel Saper, founder and director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor. "But it could be more likely that she wears heels at times when she has a particularly important or busy encounter that may cause stress."

Bachmann tried to ease the worries of a crowd in Aiken, S.C., Tuesday, assuring those assembled that she could control her migraines with medication, and they would not impede her ability to serve as president, playing down reports that the migraines have prevented her from doing her job.

Her spokeswoman told ABC News Tuesday that the migraines have not interfered with her presidential campaign or her ability to serve as a member of Congress. She denied reports that Bachmann's migraines had "incapacitated" her in the past.

"Twelve percent of Americans suffer from migraines, so if you're saying that Americans who suffer from migraines can't do their jobs, then I think you're going to run into problems," said Alice Stewart, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota congresswoman.

But doctors who specialize in treating migraines say that while they can't speak for Bachmann, many migraine sufferers experience headaches that can incapacitate them.

"The World Health Organization has ranked migraines in its top 20 incapacitating disorders during an attack," said Dr. Jan Brandes, assistant clinical professor in the department of neurology at Vanderbilt University. "They can be as incapacitated as someone who suffers from quadriplegia."

Brandes says about 10 percent of migraine sufferers experience debilitating headaches, but some studies put the number at 50 to 80 percent. Women are three times more likely to suffer from migraines than men.

"Two to three days of debilitation is not unusual," said Saper. "You have not only the pain, but you have nausea, sometimes vomiting, a visual aura and other neurological disturbances as well as a mental fog that can be caused by the pain or the headache itself.

"We grade these things from one to five," Saper said. "If it's a very severe four or five, some people can't get out of bed. They're dizzy or they vomit, and they're just in bad shape."

Medications can also affect the ability to function, because they often have a sedative effect or cause nausea while making the pain go away.

People experiencing severe migraines might also not be able to think clearly and be unable to move, because any movement at all can exacerbate the pain.

"Migraine is a complex neurological disorder, and I fully understand why people with migraine and even doctors make associations all the time, which are very interesting and need further study to prove whether they are valid or not," said Dr. Allan Purdy, professor of neurology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

"In neurology," he continued, "we have to be very careful to ensure balance but still be open-minded to all ideas, as we really to date do not know the exact cause of migraine however we are getting there with better and new science every day."

At the event in South Carolina Tuesday, Bachmann told the assembled crowd, "I've maintained a full schedule between my duties as a Congresswoman and a presidential candidate traveling across this nation. I have prescribed medication I take on occasion whenever symptoms arise and they keep my migraines under control. But I'd like to make it abundantly clear, my ability to function effectively will not affect my ability to serve as Commander in Chief."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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