Headache disorders most prevalent, says who


Staff member
Geneva May 4:

A large majority of people worldwide now suffer from what are called “headache disorders” caused primarily due to escalating anxiety and tension stemming from increasing uncertainties in a world driven by globalisation.

“There is an urgent need for political recognition that the problem [of headache disorders] exists and that it demands remedial action,” says WHO in its report on “Atlas of Headache Disorders and Resources in the World 2011” released today. The report says “headache disorders are ubiquitous, prevalent, disabling and largely treatable, but under-recognized, under-diagnosed and under-treated,” underscoring the need to improve the healthcare for addressing headache disorders.

The two most prevalent types of headache are migraine and tension-type. “Migraine and tension-type headache are among the most prevalent of disorders of mankind,” says WHO, pointing that almost 40 per cent of the headaches are caused by these two factors. While migraine headache disorder has a genetic basis in which environmental factors play a major role, the mechanism of tension-type headache is poorly understood, says WHO.

About “half to three quarters of adults aged 18-65 years in the world have had headache in the last year,” it says, suggesting that “the top three causes of consultation for headache, in both primary and specialist care, are migraine, tension-type headache and the combination of these [two forms].” Though the figures for “the society impact of headache” are sparse, there is evidence from 18 per cent of the countries about the growing incidence of this problem. A large majority of headache disorders- about 50 per cent of people- are self-treated, without contact with health officials.

Only 10 per cent of the victims go to proper neurologists, although fewer in Africa and South-East Asia. There are also “medication-overuse headache as a cause of specialist consultation (1-10 per cent) related to country income” and “other secondary headaches as a cause of special consultation (5-12 per cent) are inversely related to country income.” Besides, there are plenty of widely used drugs for headache with “ergotamine is more widely available than triptans which is more efficacious and less toxic but more expensive.”

Further, alternative therapies- physical therapy, acupuncture and naturopathy- are also tried for the headache disorders. Strangely, there is little time- only four hours- spent on teaching about headache disorders in formal undergraduate medical training. In a world driven by the Internet where increasing number of people are constantly glued to computers, play station, and televisions, headaches are bound to be the most common phenomenon, say analysts.