What Doctors Have To Say About Bachmann's Migraines

Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann’s acknowledgment that she suffers from migraines has sparked debate about whether her headaches should keep her out of the White House.

At least 36 million Americans are thought to experience migraines, and three-quarters of them are women. Migraines are often described as intense, throbbing pain in one part of the head accompanied by extreme sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and vomiting. Some people experience an “aura,” such as flashing lights or a temporary loss of vision, before the onset of a migraine.

Bachmann says her migraines are controllable, but news reports say that, over the years, Bachmann has missed hours or even days of work because of debilitating migraines. She has not released information about the frequency of her headaches but says she takes prescription medication on occassion when she starts to develop symptoms.

Some reports refer to Bachmann’s condition as “chronic.” If that’s true, then, in the strict medical sense, that would mean she suffers migraines 15 or more days a month for at least four hours a day, says Houston neurologist and headache specialist Dr. Randolph Evans.

Even if they’re not chronic, “migraines could be a huge problem for somebody who’s president,” says Evans, adding that about half of all migraine attacks are debilitating enough to force a sufferer to lie down.

Plus, he says, common migraine triggers, such as stress, travel, changes in sleeping or eating patterns, are practically part of the president’s job description. And topiramate, an anti-seizure drug commonly prescribed to prevent migraines, causes cognitive impairment — difficulty finding the right word or problems with short-term memory — in about 10 percent of patients, he says.

Even so, says Evans, himself a migraineur who’s never missed a day of work because of his headaches, “having a migraine automatically doesn’t make you unfit to be president.”

Bachmann's campaign released a letter by Brian Monahan, the attending physician for the U.S. Congress, that said Bachmann has had an extensive evaluation by his office as well as a neurologist.

"Your evaluation has entailed detailed labwork and brain scans all of which were normal. Your migraines occur infrequently and have known trigger factors of which you are aware and know how to avoid," Monahan said in the letter to Bachmann.

He said she controls her migraines with prescription medication sumatriptan and odansetron and that "you are overall in good general health."

After a rally in South Carolina Tuesday, Bachmann pointed out that she hasn't been incapacitated while campaigning.

"I'd like to be abundantly clear: My ability to function effectively will not affect my ability to serve as commander-in-chief," Bachmann said. "Since entering this campaign for the presidency, I have maintained a full schedule between my duties as a congresswoman and as a presidential candidate traveling across the nation to meet with voters."

Dr. Joel Saper, founder of the Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, notes that White House doctors would quickly be able to inject Bachmann with any one of several drugs that can effectively treat migraines.

Although he doesn’t know Bachmann, Saper says, he’d recommend that she go public with more information about her migraines. “Most cases are treatable.”

If Bachmann were elected president, she reportedly wouldn’t be the first migraineur to hold that office. According to the National Migraine Association, a nonprofit based in Alexandria, Va., both Thomas Jefferson and Ulysses S. Grant suffered from migraines. More recently, in Super Bowl XXXII in 1998, former Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis earned MVP honors despite having to sit out the second quarter because of a migraine.

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  • by Anonymous on Jul 23, 2011 at 11:50 PM
    What a narrowly profiled article. This makes it sound like the only medication for migraines is as bad as having them. There are a myriad of treaments, the most common of which are not stupid-pills that you take as a suppressive... but rather "abortive type" meds that you take when you have one - and they are quite effective. What's the big deal here??? A gazillion people have migraines that don't miss a day of work over it. They either work through it, or take something and work through it. Not everyone has incapacitating cluster headaches (a different type). That word "chronic" is thrown around for things that don't fit that ridiculous definition on how many days per month up there too. This is dumb.
  • by Puh-Leez on Jul 23, 2011 at 06:03 AM
    Let's see, FDR was in a wheel chair due to polio, JFK suffered from chronic back pain(war wounds), Clinton has a chronic sex addiction, what is the big deal here again?
    • reply
      by AMD on Jul 23, 2011 at 07:53 PM in reply to Puh-Leez
      Dont forget the pathological liar Obama.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jul 24, 2011 at 04:04 AM in reply to Puh-Leez
      As the oil folks use to say "She is sick in the head".
  • by The Rock on Jul 22, 2011 at 01:57 PM
    "Babbling Bachmann" has migraines? I thought you would have to have a brain to perform this act. The same posters who were soooo excited about Donald Trump, are now excited about Bright eyes. Some people will never learn. Priceless!!!
    • reply
      by Obama Snake Oil Co on Jul 24, 2011 at 05:17 AM in reply to The Rock
      Well, we have blithering Bama, when did a brain constitute eligibility? We saw who you put in office, how is that hope and change going fer ya? You are so right about those that will never learn....they don't even open their eyes or ears for the truth..get it?
  • by Anonymous on Jul 22, 2011 at 06:03 AM
    Migraine's are closely associated with manic depression and "bi-polar" disease.No one should ignore this fact.The type of meds that Baachman is taking rarely is given without other accompaning drugs. I would not be hesitant in saying these are not the only medications she is on. There can be strong side affects from both these drugs.The side effects may come after continual use.She may function normaly as President.Who knows? It's humoring though to see the Republicans support her in their comments as they would be burning a democrat up,as many beleive the republicans are sinless:Keep in mind the medication Baachman uses is used to treat "chronic" cases.
    • reply
      by Audra on Jul 24, 2011 at 04:27 AM in reply to
      Uh... No... People with Bipolar Disorder are at an increased risk for migraines. That is the only connection. Migraines are not "closely associated with manic depression", as in being a related disorder. Migraine Disease is a distinct neurological/cerebrovascular disease, and it has an as of yet undefined connection to epilepsy (a seizure disorder). I'm irritated with the way this story is written in that it says she takes prescription medication, but doesn't say what, and then goes on to mention a specific med without saying that's what she's taking. It seems leading and could be misleading. I don't know if that's just poor writing or what. FYI, I know nothing about her so I don't support her or reject her, regardless of her party. I could care less whether someone has a medical issue, whether they are Democrat, Republican, or anything else. As has been pointed out, a lot of people have served in office with health problems and disabilities. I think this society is a little too obsessed with perfection... and in general obsessed with information. In most cases it's downright too personal. Do we all (those old enough) remember the graphic diagrams we had to endure on the TV talking about Reagan's prostate surgery for days on end? That was special.
      • reply
        by Obama Snake Oil co on Jul 24, 2011 at 12:35 PM in reply to Audra
        Audra, you are witness to the failing of the NOW org. They should have been all over this story from the start. You saw what the libs did to Palin? Its still going on here. The progressive doesn't think women are intelligent to run for president and its blatantly obvious with this story. Of course I belive that democrats want minorities to continue to be oppressed so they stay out of their way, but what does a snake oil guy know....
  • by Anonymous on Jul 21, 2011 at 07:03 PM
    I think most of Americas migraines will go away in 2012, when Obama gets voted out. The funny thing is that the Republican candidate who hasn't even been named yet, is beating Obama in the polls.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jul 22, 2011 at 04:15 AM in reply to
      That's because it's the only Republican who hasn't open their mouth yet. Rest assured, once they do things will return to normal and we'll be back to the typical lunacy that the Republicans so love to bask in.
    • reply
      by Bayer Asp on Jul 22, 2011 at 06:11 AM in reply to
      Maybe most American's will not have migraines when Obama is out of office,but Baachman's will. She had them when Bush was in office,or have you not read the whole story.Without meds she would be totaly incapacitated at times.She is being treated for "chronic" migraines, not a bad hair day full of stress.
  • by Anonymous on Jul 21, 2011 at 06:04 PM
    What the headline should have said...WHAT DOCTORS WERE PAID TO SAY ABOUT BACHMANNS MIGRAINES.
  • by Donald Trump on Jul 21, 2011 at 04:53 PM
    Following in Sarah Palin footsteps, 3 years ago, you Republicans were head over heels over her, until they actually stop to listen and see she was a complete babbling fool, Today is Bachmann, wonder how long its going to take them this time, the GOP is so desperate to find someone to bet Obama.
  • by Garry Location: Bertie County on Jul 21, 2011 at 04:04 PM
    Where is the National Organization for Women? They never stand up for women's rights when it's a Republican woman that has been attacked. Come to think of it, they didn't defend the smear attacks on Sarah Palin either. Don't you really think that is being hypocritical? The media is bullying.....why can't they just address and vet the issues? Nobody likes a bully. Conservative women with integrity really scare these folks. Obviously, they can't win by arguing the issues, so they lodge personal attacks. Even the most insignificant wording is carefully chosen so as to smear.
    • reply
      by To Garry on Jul 21, 2011 at 07:41 PM in reply to Garry
      The NOW has not been vocal about any sexist statements-both sides are complaining. Just for the record, the Dem. women spoke out very much in defense of Bachmann over this-so did Ed Shultz on his program! This was unfair. Did you see anyone on FOX defending Debbie Wasserman? This attack was by conservatives-NOT liberals. Can you say Rove?
      • reply
        by Obama Snake Oil Co on Jul 23, 2011 at 12:50 PM in reply to To Garry
        Debbie Wasserman, what does Fox have to do with this loser Wasserman? She made her bed and spoke her opine. West lashed out after she did. Fox pointed out the truth while the others tried to defend what she did. The DNC showed there vile nature when the went after Palin and now Bachman...yeah...we get it...apparently, you don't.
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Jul 26, 2011 at 10:28 PM in reply to Obama Snake Oil Co
          And this provides support for what...exactly? The fact that Republicans aren't above personally attacking a woman who fought breast cancer?
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jul 22, 2011 at 04:18 AM in reply to Garry
      Why should they defend a leglitimate complaint? It's a pretty big factor if your President would be incapacitated at days at a time because of a medical condition. There were probably better ways to go about this, I certantly don't think she should be 'attacked' for this, because it's not her fault, but underneath it all it's really not an invalid point to bring up. The same thing in a way was brought up about McCain, that being his age. It was relevant, and it is something to consider.
      • reply
        by To anonymous on Jul 22, 2011 at 07:50 AM in reply to
        Clearly health should be considered, but the "way" this was handled was out of line. Secondly, these are the same "right-wingers" who nominated a vice president who had had 4 heart attacks! Again, it's the hypocracy of the GOP that continues to reign supreme.
  • by Chuck WireWiggler Location: ChazWorld-Pender branch on Jul 21, 2011 at 02:10 PM
    I'm glad to see the media is attacking Mrs. Bachmann. You only attack the enemy's strengths. It appears that the majority of the left is freightened of Michele, very good..
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jul 22, 2011 at 06:24 AM in reply to Chuck WireWiggler
      The majority of the left is not attacking Her...get real ! ..Right now she's running against those in her own party. Some people post the stupidest comments here. If she wins the Republican nomination for President ..then my dear you will she the attack from the left begin. I fear for her mental well being if she wins, I am sure she'll need her meds! If you think the stories that have been written about her now a bad.Political ther opposition is throwing stick and stones,wait till the bullets and canons for battle get into the battle > just wait! There is more to tell, the games haven't begun yet.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jul 22, 2011 at 10:29 AM in reply to Chuck WireWiggler
      The media isn't 'attacking' her, they are addressing a leglitimate complaint. The medical health of a person running for the Presidency should be brought into question. However, it shouldn't be done in a way as to smear the person, or harass them, only as a souce of actual concern regarding their ability to lead. If she could be incapacitated for day at a time because of a medical condition, it's a relevant complaint. As for the second part of your post, it isn't the left that's brining up these points, it's the people in her own party, that being Republicans.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jul 22, 2011 at 01:40 PM in reply to Chuck WireWiggler
      Chuck, try to keep up with whats actually going on. Please avoid your weak attempts to spin facts, these attacks are from her own party. Contrary to what you believe, most people have a brain and can think and act for themselves, they don't depend on you and Fox to tell them everything.
  • by Not tonight Location: I have a headache on Jul 21, 2011 at 01:33 PM
    Just just for any woman now but all women!
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