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Migraine Revelations Afflict Michelle Bachmann’s Campaign

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Michelle BachmannThe presidential run of Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) hit an unexpected obstacle Tuesday when The Daily Caller reported that, according to sources close to her campaign, she suffered from debilitating migraine headaches brought on by stress on an almost weekly basis. Bachmann, whose migraine condition had not previously been disclosed, was said to have been hospitalized for it on several occasions because the pain and other symptoms left her "incapacitated," in the words of one adviser. Further reporting by Politico confirmed and expanded upon details of Bachmann’s migraine medical history. Although some polls had identified Bachmann as a frontrunner in the race for the G.O.P. nomination, commentators have now begun to speculate about her medical fitness to be president of the U.S., and to wonder whether voters would abandon her candidacy on the basis of this new information.

Widespread misunderstanding of migraines and their treatment may cloud the issue, unfortunately. More than 300 million people around the world are afflicted with migraines, but the severity of their symptoms varies considerably: the excruciating head pain and sensitivity to light and sound that commonly characterize migraines can last anywhere from a few hours to several days. Stress is a common trigger for the attacks, but almost anything—allergies, alcohol, hunger, or the weather—can be. Migraine costs the U.S. economy an estimated $17 billion annually in lost work, medical expenses and disability pay.

As neurologist David W. Dodick of the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and physiologist J. Jay Gargus of the University of California, Irvine, noted in their 2008 Scientific American article "Why Migraines Strike," abnormalities of blood flow were often blamed for migraines in the past, but physicians now know that migraines are actually a neurological problem. A spreading wave of intense neural activity in portions of the brain’s cortex seems to trigger the auras, or visual illusions, that frequently precede migraine pain. It also somehow seems to activate pain signals within the trigeminal nerve system that serves the membranes around the brain.

Because of this neural involvement, most current drug treatments for migraine were originally developed to help with problems such as epilepsy and depression. Newer, more specific therapies are under development, including handheld devices that could be placed near the skull to emit magnetic signals that might be able to suppress the abnormal "brainstorm" setting off migraines. The burdens of pain and unsatisfactory treatments still fall heavily upon migraine sufferers, but their future prospects are improving.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


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  1. 1. eddiequest 8:02 am 07/21/2011

    On the one hand, it would be a clever way to give a really awful candidate an "out". But, on the other hand, I actually know what migraines are and can do. I’ve been there. For many years I’ve had these kinds of headaches. And they are NO PICNIC. It is pain unimaginable. EVERYTHING hurts – the dullest light, the slightest whisper; even breathing is torture. If this is really the case with MB, I feel for her.

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  2. 2. drafter 11:09 am 07/21/2011

    So it was okay for FDR to be a cripple and JFK to take tons of pain medicine,quantities far exceeding anything Rush Limbaugh ever took, and who knows what other presidents had problems that we weren’t told about. But let a woman have a Migraine and she can’t work. I’ve had a few and my sister has them all the time but I gaurante you no matter how bad her migraine is if something happened to say one of her kids she’d be on her feet in a second. That being said the reality is that a president does not need to Micro manage every detail of everything this is where Carter failed. A good leader knows how to delegate. This does not mean I’m for Michele but I am for honesty and with that one problem woman do have is they think they can multi-task and they think they can micro-manage everything, maybe that’s why she has the headaches.

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  3. 3. Sherris 11:26 am 07/21/2011

    Drafter, you’re being ridiculous. FDR couldn’t stand. That’s not the same as not being able to think. (And yes, migraines make you want to shut down and not think.)
    Was JFK’s behavior and subsequent impairment acceptable? Absolutely not. Should voters have known about it beforehand? You seem to be suggesting they shouldn’t. Ronald Reagan his his Alztheimers from the public. That was also unacceptable.

    Being President isn’t a right. ADA doesn’t apply to the office of president or any elective office. If Bachmann has a disability that prevents her from being an effective president 24/7, then in my mind it disqualifies her. Of course if you think it’s OK, feel free to vote for her.

    By the way, I find your comparison to your sister horrifying. Do you think it would be OK for her to be laying there, delegating all her power to others while she was in agony (weekly), only jumping up if something bad happened?

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  4. 4. jjacobweston 12:04 pm 07/21/2011

    Normally I’d go out of my way to support anyone who was in danger of being discriminated against, ESPECIALLY if I was in the same category that led to the discrimination, such as, in this case, suffering migraines.

    In this case, however, I support the notion that she can’t be president, even though I also have migraines. My form of migraine is called a cluster headache, and it is absolutely debilitating when active. There is no way I could work through the headaches, and it would take me out of action for many hours at a time, or something like 20 hours a week. When suffering the headache, I sometimes must rely on narcotic painkillers, hours in bed or just sitting on a couch rubbing my temples. It effects my judgement and my ability to commit to meetings and appointments.

    I have no idea what sort of migraines Bachmann suffers, so I can’t be sure about my opinion, but if they are anything like mine, she shouldn’t hold the highest office, any more than someone who is a narcoleptic, a schizophrenic, or has Alzheimer’s.

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  5. 5. drafter 2:11 pm 07/21/2011

    You need to re-read what I said.
    I never said it was okay for JFK to be impaired.
    I never said I’d vote for Michell.
    and My comments about my sister actually put her in a good light since I said she would act even during a Migrain.
    Read what people write not what you think they said.

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  6. 6. Sherris 6:25 pm 07/21/2011

    My understanding of what you wrote about your sister was that she *could* act during a migraine if there was an emergency, not that she went about her business as normal, suffering in silence. Emergencies of course come up in a Presidency, but the President’s schedule is packed full from morning to night – even when they’re on "vacation", they are in meetings, briefings, dinners, etc.

    But again, this isn’t about Michelle Bachmann specifically because we don’t know specifics of her migraines (if she even has them). Is it a valid concern for voters to know details about or is it her own private business. I say it’s valid for voters to be concerned about the health of their chief executive and I oppose candidates hiding their health records.

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  7. 7. robert schmidt 8:53 pm 07/21/2011

    "she suffered from debilitating migraine headaches brought on by stress", of course the presidency is not very stressful and who cares if she has to shut down for a while and put the people’s business on the back burner? Those crises will still be there the next day.

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  8. 8. geojellyroll 10:32 pm 07/21/2011

    Migraines are like back pain. A whole spectrum from 1 to a 100 on the debilitating scale.

    The more demos use this to attack Bachman, the more sympathy she pick up. The only GOP to say boo was Pawlenty and he’s at 2% in the nomination polls.

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  9. 9. Ungolythe 1:49 am 07/22/2011

    I agree, it would be silly to try to make her migraines an issue. There are plenty of other more legitimate issues that she has then migraine headaches.

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  10. 10. benchod 7:35 am 07/22/2011

    Migraines are unavoidable factor of our human life. We simply don’t wake up every day trying to figure out if today will be most brutal pain staking day. However, with technology and advance in medicine scientist should out to find a CURE. Not a treatment, but a CURE. I know that seems out of scoop for now. Faith is the only aspect of life someone can relay on for now hoping that it will simply get better. Take this from someone who has been suffering from migraines for years.

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  11. 11. ironjustice 10:02 am 07/22/2011

    Living at altitude is considered by some to be a ‘human model of erythrocytosis / polycythemia / increased red blood cell production. Migraine is very common in those with increased red blood cell production. One might wonder whether her migraines are simply lack of proper medical diagnosis. IE: erythrocytosis
    "Migraine, polycythemia and chronic mountain sickness"

    Hemochromatosis is considered to be a subcategory of erythrocytosis. Hemochromatosis IS erythrocytosis.

    "Three treatments by venesection improved the
    headache substantially in frequency, intensity, and duration of attacks"

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