Martin Whitfield MSP is supporting Migraine Awareness Week (24th-30th September) to call attention to the serious impact that migraine has on people living with this condition and the need for better migraine care.

One in seven adults in the UK experience migraine. Over one million live with chronic migraine, meaning they experience headache for at least 15 days a month for three months at a time.

The impact of migraine goes far beyond pain. A third of callers to The Migraine Trust’s helpline report a decline in mental health due to their migraine. Migraine can affect all areas of life including ability to work and maintain relationships leaving many of those affecting feeling isolated.

A survey by The Migraine Trust found 29% of respondents had moved from full-time to part-time work due to their migraine and 25% had left a job as a result of it (rising to a third among those with chronic migraine). 43% felt their workplace had not believed them when they had taken sick leave due to a migraine attack and 34% had felt discriminated against at work.

A new report from The Migraine Trust has also found people with migraine are struggling to access appropriate diagnoses and treatments. Misunderstanding of the condition as ‘just a headache’, lack of specialist care and unequal provision of treatments means many are left struggling alone with debilitating symptoms.

In its report, ‘Heading in the wrong direction’, the charity heard from many people who feel health professionals, especially in primary care, do not understand migraine. They report having their pain dismissed, being told nothing can be done for them and waiting years to access treatments. As a result, many are left feeling depressed, frustrated and unable to cope.

Most people who live with migraine should be successfully supported in primary care by their GP, who can diagnose migraine and advise on medication options and lifestyle adaptions, and might also be supported by community pharmacies.

However, some will need to be referred to a healthcare professional who specialises in migraine, such as a GP with a Special Interest in Headache, or a neurologist. High numbers of patients reported incorrect referrals, long waiting lists for specialist support or simply that they feel dismissed.

Backing the need for better migraine care, Martin Whitfield MSP said:

“Migraine affects thousands of people in East Lothian and across South Scotland. But it is not being taken seriously as a health condition and too many of those living with migraine are currently being let down.

“That’s why I’m backing calls for greater use in the NHS of tools and pathways that exist for managing the condition, increased education to support health professionals to identify and manage migraine in the right place for patients, and more specialist centres.”