Written by Seymour Diamond, M.D., Executive Chairman and Founder of National Headache Foundation, Director Emeritus and Founder of Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago. Mary A. Franklin, Executive Director of National Headache Foundation in Chicago, Illinois. As the Jewish high holidays approach in September this year, one becomes...

More than 29.5 million Americans suffer from migraine, with women being affected three times more often than men. They are most commonly experienced between the ages of 15 and 55, and 70% to 80% of sufferers have a family history of migraine. Less than half of all migraine sufferers have received a diagnosis of migraine from their healthcare provider. Migraine is often misdiagnosed as sinus headache or tension-type headache.


Migraine is extremely common in war veterans. In fact, one study reported that 36% of those returning from Iraq after deployment for Operation Iraqi Freedom experienced attacks of migraine-like headaches. Another study reported that 37% of soldiers with concussion injuries had headaches within one week of the concussion. Of these headaches, 91% had characteristics of migraine headache.

Considering the growing obesity epidemic among America’s youth, exercise is typically considered to be a great thing – it increases blood flow, helps manage weight, boosts energy levels – the list goes on and on. However, for children suffering from exertion headaches, exercise can quickly become the enemy. Exertion headaches are a generalized head pain that occurs during or following physical exertion (running, jumping) or passive exertion (sneezing, coughing, moving one’s bowels, etc.). While most exertion headaches are benign, they do vary in severity, duration (from 15 minutes to 20 hours), and associated symptoms (some children will experience nausea, vomiting, and light or sound sensitivity). Although these headaches may occur in isolation, they are most commonly associated with patients who have inherited susceptibility to migraine and are often triggered by sustained physical exertion that is uncharacteristically strenuous for the particular individual’s conditioning.

According to the National Headache Foundation’s survey statistics, an overwhelming 92% of the population has experienced a hangover headache at some point in their lives. Beer, wine, and liquor are all made of ethanol, or a chemical more commonly known as alcohol. Alcohol has been found to trigger headaches in several ways.  It is a direct vasodilator and in some individuals vasodilatation, or enlargement of the blood vessels by a nerve or drug, may cause a headache. Alcohol is also a natural diuretic: it leads to the excretion of salt, vitamins, and minerals from the body through the kidneys. When consumed in excess, alcohol can cause dehydration or chemical imbalances in the body which can both trigger headache.

Each year, approximately 90% of the U.S. population will experience at least one headache and 13% will experience migraine. Of the 29.5 million migraine sufferers in the U.S., only 15-30% will seek medical attention. Migraine is a serious condition that impacts our society. Each year, it is estimated that time lost from work due to headache costs the nation up to $17 billion dollars in absenteeism, lost productivity and medical expenses. Though migraine is more prevalent among women (18% of the population), the disorder affects men as well (6% of the population). Most sufferers have a family history of migraine. Many factors trigger migraine such as stress, environmental factors, depression, or certain medication.

Allergy Headaches Symptoms: Generalized headache; nasal congestion; watery eyes Precipitating Factors: Seasonal allergens, such as pollen, molds. Allergies to food are not usually a factor. Treatment: Antihistamine medication; topical, nasal cortisone related sprays; or desensitization injections Prevention: None Learn more about the relationship between allergies and headaches. Aneurysm Symptoms: May mimic frequent migraine...

According to the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) Study1, more than 29 million Americans experience migraines, yet only about 48 percent who have the symptoms of migraine actually receive proper diagnosis. Migraine is a chronic neurologic disorder characterized by recurring attacks of head pain and associated symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting or extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Below is an overview of the National Headache Foundation's (NHF) Standards of Care for Headache Diagnosis and Treatment which include the U.S. Headache Consortium's recommendations for the proper diagnosis of and treatment options for migraine.