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(Australian Associated Press)
When Trish Mumford began experiencing migraine as a teenager in the late 1960s, one idea of treatment was cutting off people’s hair.
So when she was about 15, her long, blonde locks got the chop.
“The information my parents was given was that the weight of the hair on my scalp was causing headaches,” she said.
“That’s how basic things were.”
In the 50 years since, the Sydneysider has repeatedly found herself in a hospital emergency room due to migraine, which has brought on vomiting and dehydration.
But the neurological condition, for which debilitating symptoms include headache, has also held sway in every area of the 63-year old’s life.
It has influenced her choices of whether to take holidays, commit to social events, and even about the now-retired midwife’s career path.
“I’ve opted for less challenging career paths in nursing because I didn’t know whether I would cope with them, and whether that would trigger more migraine,” she said.
“Sometimes your choices aren’t really what you want, but what you feel that you could cope with if you have a headache.”
She said her finances have also taken a toll amid paying for medications and missing days at work to grapple with the condition.
The frequency with which Ms Mumford has experienced migraine has fluctuated throughout her life, along with the effectiveness of both medical and alternative treatments she has turned to for relief.
But what has remained constant has been the dismissiveness of some people, including doctors, to the condition.
“It’s more than just a headache,” she said.
A new report has added weight to the sentiment that migraine is far from inconsequential, showing it costs the Australian economy about $35.7 billion a year.
The Deloitte Access Economics Migraine in Australia paper says that includes $14.3 billion worth of health system costs, about $2.2 billion of which are paid by those experiencing the condition.
About $16.3 billion of the costs to the economy are in lost productivity.
There are up to 4.9 million Australians who experience migraine, including almost one in three women and about one in 10 men, the report has found.
It shows they could be losing up to $27,803 per year due to the condition.
Sydney-based neurologist Dr Karl Ng said the figures are “quite confronting” and he believes a lot of people who experience migraine aren’t being treated enough.
More peoeple who are experiencing migraine regularly should be taking preventative medications, he said.
“There are definitely things that can be improved there,” he said.
“Part of that is also education, of course, with health professionals and giving them the right approach to treating patients.”
Ms Mumford, who currently experiences migraine up to nine times a month and uses a botox treatment, said she hopes the figures will help people think about the condition with more empathy.
“Just being believed is a big thing,” she said.
She also hopes the findings will encourage more accessible and affordable treatments.