The phrase “crippling headache” is as accurate as it gets for millions of migraine-sufferers around the globe: a bad headache can get in the way of everything.
Last weekend, the Headache Chapter of the Egyptian Society of Neurology, Psychiatry and Neurosurgery (ESNPN) and Novartis two Egyptian organisations collaborated to launch the third Mena Headache Conference in Cairo.
The “Not Just a Headache" campaign was launched at the conference, aiming to shed light on how severe migraines can be.
Attendees reflected on how common the problem is, and how crippling the attack can be.
"It could be a perfectly normal beginning of a day, with a work schedule already set and going smoothly, and then everything stops all of a sudden when the nightmare of a crippling headache sets in," a participant told Ahram Online.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the problem of headaches affects 90 percent of people at one point in their lives, and up to 14.7 percent of people around the world suffer from migraines.
The new campaign aims to raise awareness of the challenges facing migraine patients, bringing together medical experts from Egypt and other Middle Eastern and North African countries to define how healthcare providers and the community can help improve patients’ quality of life.
Dr. Mohamed Osama Abdelghany, chairman of the Egyptian Headache Chapter, explained that migraine is a neurological disease in which genetics and environmental factors appear to play a role, although the causes are still shrouded in some mystery.
"Migraine in Arabic historically had a very significant name, el-shakeeka, meaning 'what splits the head into two'. With such accuracy, our ancestors explained its effect.”
"It is typically a severe throbbing recurring pain, usually on one side of the head and is often accompanied by debilitating symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, extreme sensitivity to sound, light, touch and smell," he said.
Understanding the magnitude of the problem entitled bringing up data.
"Migraine is the third most common disease in the world with an estimated global prevalence of 14.7 percent, affecting nearly 1 in 7 people,"Abdelghany explained.
The tremendous effects that migraines can have on people's lives, as well as on the economy, were highlighted by Dr. Maged AbdelNosser, professor of neurology at Cairo University.
"Migraine is globally ranked as the sixth most disabling disease, with more than 90 percent of sufferers unable to work or function normally, and more prone to anxiety and depression.
"The huge impact of migraine, which affects women three times more than men, on patients’ lives, translates into significant economic and social burdens," he said.
AbdelNosser also spoke about the results of a survey conducted in several Egyptian governorates in 2015 on a pool of 2,600 patients.
"Prevalence was 17.3 percent, which peaked in midlife, yet more than 60 percent of participants did not seek medical advice for headache problems.
"Many factors contributed to under recognition and under treatment, some of which were the absence of specialised headache centres, underestimating headache disorders by family members and even by healthcare practitioners, insufficient patient education and the availability of over-the-counter pain relievers," he added.
Improving both the public and physicians’ awareness is at the core of the campaign.
“Across medical schools all over the world, a minimal amount of hours is dedicated to migraine, despite the fact that severe headaches and migraines are highly prevalent among the younger segment of the population,” said Dr. Ramez Reda, professor of neurology at Ain Shams University.
"Migraine remains under diagnosed and undertreated in at least 50 percent of patients, and less than 50 percent of migraine patients consult a physician.
"Awareness should be raised in order for healthcare professionals, family members and friends to be able to identify the symptoms of migraine," he concluded.