By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /


If it does, you’ve probably
also felt like this: These are all symptoms of the debilitating,
traumatic disease of migraine, which, just to be clear: – is not just a headache. It’s a genetic, neurologic disease. It’s shockingly common, estimated to affect a billion
people around the world. – We need to treat migraine like a
large, global public health problem. But migraine research is critically underfunded. And there’s still a lot we don’t
know about why they happen and how best to treat them. – I feel like a cyborg. We spoke to doctors, researchers
and patients to learn more about the confounding disease of migraine and what it will take to truly find relief. I’m Molly Rubin. This is Quartz. Please subscribe to our channel. There are a lot of treatments for migraine. – And that’s another pulse. Neuromodulation devices stimulate
nerves to normalize brain function. – And we just turn it on. – It’s starting to get really sharp,
really tight, and really intense. – We’ll take it right off. Some people get dozens of shots of botox to the head every few months. Or inject anesthetics to
the nerves in their head. – It’s super uncomfortable,
I don’t know why I laugh. But these treatments don’t work for everyone. – I’ve been on the shots,
I’ve done the nasal spray. – I’ve tried probably a hundred
medicines at this point. And it’s hard to even find a doctor. There are less than 600 certified
headache specialists in the US. – Very often what we offer is hope. Dr. Alexander Mauskop specializes
in treating migraine. Yes, migraine, not migraines. It’s a disease people live with 24
hours a day, like asthma, not just during attacks. And it’s particularly hard to treat because
everyone experiences migraine differently, with a range of symptoms that are
maybe best described as paralyzing. – The World Health Organization
rates the disability of migraine during an attack
at the same level as the disability of a quadriplegic. – Of a quadriplegic person?
– Yes. The US economy alone loses $78 billion annually in lost labor and direct medical costs, thanks to migraine. A reliable, affordable, effective treatment without
crazy side effects would be a game changer. And last year, there was a breakthrough: a new class of drugs called CGRPs. They block a protein in the brain
released during an attack, and they’re the first-ever preventative drug
developed specifically for migraine. – These are totally different drugs
from the ones we’ve had in the past. CGRPs are life changing… for some, but not for everyone. – I’m on my fourth month of Ajovy and it’s been a miracle drug for me. – For me, it’s had a very limited result. They work really well for about 20% of patients, but migraine impacts 1 in 7
people around the world. Those suffering need more. That’s the focus of researchers here,
at an Arizona campus of Mayo Clinic, this gleaming hospital in the middle of the desert at the forefront of migraine research. – So what do we know about what causes a migraine, and what don’t we know? – So we know that there are many different genes, over 30 genes, that are associated with migraine. We know that that there’s these correlations, but we don’t exactly know the
connections in between them. Dr. Starling is a neurologist
and headache specialist. She runs clinical trials and collaborates
closely with the Mayo lab. – Why is it that there’s still
so much we don’t know about migraine pathology and treatment? – So it all comes down to stigma. If a disease is not respected in the medical field, then it’s also not going to receive the
amount of research funding that it should. The National Institute of Health
is the biggest source of public funding for biomedical
research in the world. If you look at the funding migraine
receives compared to its burden, it’s way below the average. – Very little research is being funded
for a disease that is highly disabling. Migraine has a devastating impact. But it’s hard to get people to care
about a disease they can’t see, especially when almost three-quarters
of sufferers are women. – A common theme, unfortunately,
in a lot of disease processes that affect women disproportionately
is that we don’t have a lot of research. – When she told you about all this, did she have any idea what caused the headaches? – No, she believes she was born with them. Until the late 20th century, migraine was thought to
be a psychosomatic disease of hysterical women. – There’s an angry, frustrated woman. – It’s just, “Oh, women are weak. They’re complaining. They’re just laying in bed. They should just get to work and drink
a little bit of water and get a massage.” Migraine affects people across all
ages, races, socioeconomic classes. Science has shown that it’s a neurological disorder, but that hasn’t been enough to change
the way we think about it. – Because stigma is social. The only thing that can remove social
stigma is changing culture. Joanna Kempner wrote a book on the
stigma that surrounds migraine. – What is the best way that you
see to remove the stigma and to get people to really believe
that this should be funded? – The best way for disease
groups to get more funding is for people with those diseases to mobilize. Miles For Migraine is a non-profit
group working to show the world migraine is a real disease that
needs to be taken seriously. Through advocacy, they hope to
make the disease more visible, to bring more attention (and funding) to research. – We want them to use their voice and
their actions to advocate for this disease, because it is misunderstood,
misdiagnosed, under-diagnosed. These patients are spending hours, on a Saturday, to talk about the most extreme pain
they’ve ever felt in their lives. They’re listening to lectures,
trying art therapy and tai chi. That it took until 2018 to make a drug that
could potentially help a billion people, shows how much work still needs to be
done to fight the stigma of migraine. – This is a feminist health issue. This is about women being heard
at the health clinic. This is about women being heard by
their employers, by their partners, and women also hearing themselves. So, if you take anything away
from this video, take this: – Migraine is more than just a headache. – Migraine is not just a headache. – Migraine is not just a headache. Hey! We’re making a series for Quartz
members we think you’ll like. It’s called Because China. Because China is reshaping our world in
a lot of unexpected and interesting ways. Click the link in the comments or description
to sign up for a free membership trial to watch the series and more great videos.


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