Michele Bachmann gets migraines! A few media reports suggest that detractors think the Minnesota congresswoman and Republican presidential candidate is unfit for office because of them.
Bachmann denies this and doctors agree. “I was quite surprised to see so much press about it,” said Dr. Rashmi Halker, a neurologist and headache specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
“Sometimes patients can have debilitating headaches. That is part of the condition, but for the vast majority of people it is a problem that we can manage with medications,” Halker said in a telephone interview.
“There are a variety of medications for prevention and acute treatment, and most people are able to do just fine.”
Behind the insinuations is an unhappy history. Migraines are much more common among women, and doctors in the past did not always take the condition seriously. “This was definitely a misconception about migraines, and we really didn’t understand what it was,” Halker said. “When we don’t understand something, we tend to throw all sorts of labels at it."
“We know a lot more about it now. Amongst headache doctors we don’t think of it as hysteria, or it's a woman's problem, or that it’s all in your head.”
It is more common among women—Halker says 18 percent of women have suffered migraines, as compared to 6 percent of men.
But she said the general public may not always understand. “There are some people who wonder whether it really is a medical problem,” she said. “We understand now—it’s a problem of pain transmission in the brain.”
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