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Are Chronic Migraines Considered a Disability?


It is reported that around 12% of the population suffers from migraines. The International Headache Society defines chronic migraines as experiencing fifteen headache days per month, and eight or more of those days being migrainous, in absence of medication. If an individual experiences less than 15 headache days per month, they are diagnosed with (low or high) frequency episodic migraines. If an individual suffers from fifteen or more, they are diagnosed with chronic migraines. Migraine attacks can increase in frequency over time transitioning a diagnosis of episodic migraines into chronic migraines.

When diagnosing patients with episodic or chronic migraines, it is extremely important to know the exact number of days per month that a person experiences a headache of any kind. Most doctors suggest carrying a “headache diary” to record the level of pain, duration, and other information surrounding their experienced headache. Typically, when patients are asked how many headaches they experience they only report the most severe headaches. By only reporting the most severe headaches, they may give a false impression of their true headache trouble and a diagnosis for chronic headaches may be overlooked.

Individuals that suspect they have chronic migraines should be diligently assessed by their physician to exclude all other potential causes of frequent headaches such as secondary headaches. Secondary headaches are headaches caused by an underlying condition or disease.

Other forms of chronic daily headaches include chronic tension-type headache, daily persistent headaches, or hemicrania continua.

Risk Factors of Chronic Migraines

Similarly, to episodic migraines there is not a single cause for chronic migraines. Some people have found specific triggers such as bright lights, caffeine, and food or sleep deprivation.

Other risk factors include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Obesity
  • Asthma
  • Head or neck injury

Treatment for Chronic Migraines

Treatment for episodic and chronic migraines are very similar. Most treatments consist of acute medications to try and break the onset of a headache attack. Doctors try and limit the amount of medication used as migraines can also be caused by medication overuse. Preventive medications are used to decrease the severity and intensity of headache attacks. There is currently only one chronic headache medicine that is FDA approved, other medications such as anti-depressants, anti-seizure and blood pressure medications have also been proven to help relieve chronic migraines. Most doctors have seen encouraging results with a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. However, doctors have also reported a problem with patients overusing their medication in fear of migraine onset.

Obtaining Disability Benefits for Chronic Migraines

Despite the harsh symptoms that accompany migraines, they rarely cause problems that are evident on any laboratory testing, or brain MRIs. Typically, headaches and migraines are considered “subjective symptom disabilities” or disorders for which there are no objective tests than can prove a person is suffering from a migraine.

Our disability insurance attorneys at Mehr Fairbanks Trial Lawyers have helped numerous long-term disability claimants that have been unable to work as a result of chronic migraines. If your claim has been denied, we are able to assist you and make the claim process as easy as possible for you. Call toll free at 800-249-3731 today.

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