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Migraines, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits

For more information on:   Social Security Disability and SSI Disability.

Although the neurological syndrome called Migraine is most commonly thought of as a severe, pulsating, painful headache, there are many symptoms which happen during an ‘attack’. Other symptoms may include vomiting, nausea, sensitivity to sound, sensitivity to light, pain in various parts of the body and perceptual disturbances called ‘aura’. Aura manifests as either an unpleasant smell or strange lights and is also present in some forms of epilepsy; nearly one-third of migraine sufferers report aura. Some migraines are with aura and some are without.

Migraine usually last from four to seventy-two hours and is extremely common in the United States. Around six percent of men and eighteen percent of women report experiencing migraine. It is thought that migraine disorder can be genetic, though some types may be due to hormone organ disease, injury or hormonal changes. Many female sufferers mysteriously lose their migraines during pregnancy.

Migraines are classified into no pain, mild pain, moderate pain and severe pain that can prevent daily activities. When a migraine headache symptom is without aura, diagnosis can only be made if there have been five attacks that last four to seventy-two hours, accompanied by either a pulsating, throbbing quality, moderate or severe pain, aggravation that interrupts physical activity and unilateral location. Two of these symptoms must be present. Also, one other symptom must be present from the following four: nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to sound or sensitivity to light.

When a migraine is with aura it must also be accompanied by visual disturbances such as flickering lights or spots, sensory symptoms such as numbness and pins and needles or speech disturbance. At least one of the symptoms must be present for a diagnosis. In addition, it must also have a least two of these symptoms: visual and/or sensory symptoms affecting just one side of the body, at least one aura symptom lasting over five minutes and symptoms lasting from five to sixty minutes.

There are many different causes or ‘triggers’ that lead to migraine. Allergic reactions, smoking, skipping meals, certain foods, alcohol, birth control pills, caffeine, the menstrual cycle, stress, bright lights, loud sounds, strong odors, and even certain weather changes can all affect or trigger migraine. At times it may even appear for no apparent reason.

There are different types of migraines, from basilar, familial and abdominal to acephalgic, and menstrual. They signs and symptoms can vary greatly among patients, but there are generally four stages. The first stage is called prodrome and it includes depression or euphoria, sleepiness, food cravings, yawning, fatigue, increased urination, stiff neck muscles and either constipation or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually seen hours or days before the headache comes along. The aura stage, if it is present, generally happens right before the headache stage. Aura can consist of visual impairments, such as cloudy vision, tunnel vision or strange lights and patterns. It can also be accompanied by pins-and-needles, numbness and other odd sensory symptoms, as well as a sensitivity to touch and unpleasant smells.

Next is the pain stage. Generally, a migraine is unilateral and throbbing, and can be moderate to severe. Although it can settle on one side, it may also switch back and forth. The pain stage usually lasts from four to seventy-two hours. During this stage nausea is present in nearly 90 percent of patients.

The last stage of migraine is usually the ‘postdrome’ stage which leaves sufferers feeling irritable, tired and drained. Some feel depressed, others feel euphoric. A long nap helps many relieve this stage.

There are many theory’s on what causes migraine, such as the depolarization theory, vascular theory, serotonin theory, neural theory and unifying theory, though the cause is not completely understood. It is estimated that 12-18 percent of people will experience migraine at some point in their life.

There are many different treatments for migraine. Trigger avoidance is one form of treatment and may require lifestyle changes, such as diet modification. There are also many drugs for symptomatic control and also, preventative drugs. These treatments are not fool-proof, some work and some don’t. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are usually the first line of treatment. Paracetamol (ibuprofen), aspirin, serotonin agonists, triptans, narcotic pain relievers and other prescription drugs may be used for treatment. Prophylactics are used for management and prevention. Many people have also found that bodywork, massage, acupuncture and a variety of other alternative treatments help with migraine.

Return to:  Social Security Disability Resource Center, or read answers to Questions

Related Body System Impairments:

ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease and Filing for Disability
Cerebral Palsy and Filing for Disability
Huntington's disease and Filing for Disability
Hydrocephalus and Filing for Disability
Migraine and Filing for Disability
Myasthenia Gravis and Filing for Disability
Narcolepsy and Filing for Disability
Parkinson's Disease and Filing for Disability
Post Polio Syndrome and Filing for Disability
Migraines, Social Security Disability, and Applying for Benefits

Information on the following topics can be found here: Social Security Disability Questions and in these subsections:

Frequently asked questions about getting Denied for Disability Benefits | FAQ on Disability Claim Representation | Info about Social Security Disability Approvals and Being Approved | FAQ on Social Security Disability SSI decisions | The SSD SSI Decision Process and what gets taken into consideration | Disability hearings before Judges | Medical exams for disability claims | Applying for Disability in various states | Selecting and hiring Disability Lawyers | Applying for Disability in North Carolina | Recent articles and answers to questions about SSD and SSI

These pages answer some of the most basic questions for individuals who are considering filing a claim.

Filing for disability - How to file for SSD or SSI and the Information that is needed by Social Security
How to Apply for Disability - What medical conditions can you apply and qualify for?
Applying for Disability - How long does it take to get Social Security Disability or SSI benefits?
What happens if I file a disability application and it is denied by a disability examiner or Judge?
How to Prove you are disabled and qualify to win disability benefits
How do you prove your disability case if you have a mental condition or impairment?
Social Security Disability Back pay and How Long it Takes to Qualify for it and receive it
Social Security Disability SSI - Eligibility Requirements and Qualifications Criteria