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disability & imparement

Problems In The Workplace

Not only can Migraine disease be disabling and life threatening, but it can have a devastating and disruptive effect on normal living. Migraine sufferers experience not only excruciating pain, but can experience social ostracism, job loss, disruption to personal relationships, and prejudices in the workplace.

As mentioned before, oftentimes people think that those with Migraines just can't handle life or are drug addicts or alcoholics. Such perception can be formed when, for example, people see a Migraineur wearing sun glasses indoors due to sensitivity to light, lying in a dark and silent room due to sensitivity to light and sound, making frequent trips to the rest room due to nausea and vomiting, leaving work early, slurring their speech, or engaging in otherwise erratic behavior. According to Dr. Sheftell, "Historically, patients with the most intractable Migraines experience a downward spiral in terms of income and contributions to society at large."

The corresponding cost to industry and the health care system due to Migraine is estimated to cost between $5 and $17 billion dollars a year. Although most Migraine sufferers attempt to continue to work despite their Migraines, many Migraine sufferers see their income and productivity spiral over time if they are not in a work environment that lets them work around their Migraine. In fact, one of the latest studies on the economic cost of Migraine found that the unemployment rate in individuals with severe Migraine is 10% to 20%, several times higher than the general population. The good news is that many employers are very accommodating to people with Migraine and people with other episodic diseases such as epilepsy.

Therefore, properly handling Migraine in the workplace is important both to the Migraine sufferer and to the employer. How to best handle Migraine in the workplace differs with the severity and frequency of the attacks as well as the personalities of the employees, employer, and Migraine sufferer.

However, there are some universal principles on how to handle Migraine in the workplace that generally apply to each situation, and these principles can be modified accordingly on a case by case basis.

The first universal principle on how to handle Migraine in the workplace is do not try to hide the fact that you have Migraines. If you know that your Migraines will affect your work at times or may cause you to call in sick, do not try to hide your Migraines, as this usually causes people to misinterpret what is going on and assume the worst, such as that you are on drugs (especially if they see you take an Imitrex shot to treat your Migraine), or that you can't handle your workload. It is better to let your boss and co-workers know that you have Migraines. However, it is imperative that you let them know in such a way that does not scare them into thinking that you are going to be unproductive or that you will need very special treatment.

migraine suffererIt is imperative that you let your boss and co-workers know that your Migraines are NOT caused by stress. This is the second universal principle. You should see a Migraine specialist, find the best treatment regiment for you, and estimate how often you will get your Migraines and how often they will effect your work schedule. You should then, in most cases, meet with your boss and tell him or her that you have Migraines and that they may cause you to have to take a break now or then or call in sick. You need to let your boss know that, like epilepsy, Migraine is a neurological condition that results in episodic attacks, and that Migraine attacks are triggered by such things as air pressure, weather patterns, and certain food chemicals. The most effective way for you to do this is by bringing your boss a letter from your doctor stating you have Migraines and by bringing a letter from your doctor, or a letter from a Migraine specialist, stating that Migraine is not caused by stress. MAGNUM can supply you with this second letter. You can give these letters and any other material you feel is appropriate to your boss by stating that you thought that your boss may like to have these letters and material for his or her records, and that you didn't want him or her to think that something else was wrong with you, such as you were in over your head or were calling in sick because you didn't want to work. You should then let your co-workers know the same things in a way that is suited to each co-worker's personality.

If you have a Migraine attack at work but live too far away to run home and lie down without taking the whole day off, you may seek to work out with your employer a place where you can lie down now and then, and/or a place where you can work that is not brightly lit when you have a Migraine attack.

Overall, you should find a job that allows you to be productive despite your Migraines. If you have very frequent and severe Migraines, you may find that you cannot work productively, in the eyes of you or your employer, in a 9 to 5 job that has a structured environment. In that case, you should seek to find a job that has more flexible hours or that involves a type of work that allows you to work around your Migraines.

In the worst-case scenario, if you find that you can't work, you can file for disability, or if you find that you can work productively but are being treated unfairly or are fired because of your Migraines, you do have protection under the American with Disabilities Act. But these remedies should be used in only the most serious circumstances, as abuse of such remedies can taint the perception of and the remedies available to other Migraine sufferers nationwide.