Doctors to tackle Britain's 2bn migraine: GPs will hold first conference dedicated to solving the common headacheMigraines force 83,000 people to miss work or school every dayAround a million people suffer 'medication headaches' caused by painkillersAnyone who takes a pill on more than 15 days in a month is at risk

Emma Reynolds


13:51 GMT, 12 January 2013



13:51 GMT, 12 January 2013

Doctors will meet next week at the first migraine conference to discuss the common problem that affects everyone from the stressed worker to the exhausted parent.

Migraines cause 83,000 people to miss work or school every day, cost the economy about 2billion a year and account for one in ten visits to the GP.

But how to prevent them remains an ongoing headache.

The first in a series of headache conferences will take place in Hull, bringing together more than 200 GPs, physicians, neurologists and public health experts.

A real pain: The move comes after health watchdog Nice warned that around a million people get headaches from taking the pills intended to prevent them

A real pain: The move comes after health watchdog Nice warned that around a million people get headaches from taking the pills intended to prevent them

It follows a warning from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence that around a million people suffer chronic 'medication headaches' from taking too many painkillers.

Headache sufferers who take aspirin, paracetamol or ibuprofen for 15 days a month are at risk, said Nice.


If you have 25 or more headache-free days each month, painkillers should help. Paracetamol and ibuprofen are effective, as is soluble aspirin, which is absorbed faster.

If you have fewer than 25, it’s likely you’re a migraine sufferer and need more focused treatment.

Also be aware that what you think may be a sinusitis headache could be a migraine.

Sinus problems are hugely over-diagnosed, according to Dr Raju Kapoor, consultant neurologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, and the pain is often caused by migraine.

The wrong form of treatment is given, such as antibiotics or invasive surgical procedures to clear the sinuses, which will have no effect.

Frequent sufferers should keep a diary of their headaches and discuss it with their GP.

Fayyaz Ahmed, a consultant neurologist, told The Times: 'The overall burden of headaches is similar to arthritis and diabetes, and worse than asthma. But it is not given anything like the same priority by the health service.'

Dr Ahmed, who chairs the British Association for the Study of Headache, added: 'We need to educate the public to recognise the red flags and to help them manage their condition. And we need to equip GPs with the knowledge they need to treat headaches.'

The association, which is organising next week’s event with the Migraine Trust, will tell GPs that headache disorders are under-recognised, under-diagnosed and under-treated.

Dr Ahmed estimates that more than 90 per cent of the adult population will at some point suffer from headaches that are not caused by alcohol or drug misuse. Most headaches, between 60 and 70 per cent, will be caused by tension, with a further 18 per cent caused by migraines.

About 50 per cent of headache sufferers do not consult a doctor. Those who do go to their GP are likely to be referred to a specialist if their complaint persists, with headaches accounting for 30 per cent of all referrals to neurologists. But Dr Ahmed said that the vast majority of patients did not require specialist treatment and could be treated by their family doctor.

There was now a four-month waiting list to attend one of Britain’s 31 migraine clinics, which had a severe impact on the most serious cases, he said. 'Daily headache disorders put a huge burden on healthcare and indirectly on Britain’s economy. It is crucial to recognise them, as effective treatment can significantly ease their symptoms.'