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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 06/18/02
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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UC Researcher Discusses Migraine Headaches

Cincinnati--Robert Smith, MD, professor and director emeritus of the department of Family Medicine at the University of Cincinnati (UC) and founder and past director of the UC Headache Center, will participate in a press teleconference June 18, to discuss his study showing that nearly one-third of people diagnosed by their primary care physicians as having non-specific headaches actually suffer from migraines. The findings will be presented at the 44th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society (AHS). The teleconference, which will include eight researchers from across the country, discussing their studies on headaches and migraine, will begin at 12 p.m. EST with Dr. Smith speaking at approximately 12:20 p.m.

Research has shown that 28 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches. "If migraine is not diagnosed, it's not treated," Dr. Smith says. "Specific migraine treatment typically will relieve the pain as well as other disabling migraine symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting. Instead of specific treatment, patients with severe migraine often are given general pain relievers, which are not as effective, and eventually may end up taking medications with barbiturates or codeine in them. This not only leads to the escalation of headache problems, but can increase drug dependence."

In a study involving 23,470 patients in the practices of 30 family physicians, 1,112 of 1,623 headache patients (69 percent) had received a diagnosis of headache NOS - not otherwise specified, or non-specific. Of the NOS group, 654 patients' charts were chosen randomly and upon analysis, 200 (31 percent) were determined to have migraines, according to International Headache Society (IHS) specifications, based on a review of the medical record.

"It's understandable that this happens," Dr. Smith says. "The primary care physician often is dealing with a patient who comes in with other problems, such as a sprained ankle, and then says, 'Oh, and I get these headaches.' There are more than 100 different types of headaches, according to the IHS. The physician's first concern is to make sure the headache is not dangerous--such as caused by a tumor--and the specific diagnosis often gets lost along the way."

He suggests people with headaches ask their doctors about the possibility of the pain being caused by a migraine.

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