That throbbing pain in your head is causing you discomfort and affecting your daily life, but do you know the difference between a bad headache and a migraine? Do you know when it’s time to get a checkup and/or get further treatment? Unfortunately, most Black people don’t because they are often misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed.
“African American and Hispanic patients are less likely to receive a migraine diagnosis than white patients,” says Dr. Jessica Kiarashi, M.D., medical advisor for Cove. She specializes in treating migraines and reducing health disparities in underserved populations. Blacks, in particular, are 25% less likely to receive a migraine diagnosis than white patients.
Your odds of getting a diagnosis and adequate care only get worse if you are a Black male, according to Dr. Kiarashi.
Approximately 903,000 to 1.5 million Black men are affected by migraine in the United States, according to the American Headache Society. However, they are often left out of the conversation.
Dr. Kiarashi says there’s an image that migraines only affect whites and it has been portrayed in many of the commercials we see on television, but it doesn’t end there. It can be seen in research and clinical trials.
“Part of this is due to a failure in recruiting patients from BIPOC communities,” Dr. Kiarashi adds. “African American, Latino, Alaskan, Native Americans and Indian patients have really been underrepresented in clinical trials. Of course, this can be a problem because if we’re looking at safety and effectiveness of drugs, we want to look across the whole population.”
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Chronic migraine or headaches?
So how do you tell if your headache is the occasional headache caused by stress, not getting enough sleep, etc. or if it’s a sign of something more serious?
“If somebody experiences headaches on a regular basis that are severe enough to interfere with their activities – if these headaches are sometimes accompanied by symptoms of lighter sound sensitivity and nausea, it’s like migraine,” Dr. Sara Crystal, MD, Cove Medical Director & Neurologist says.
About 90% of people overall experience tension headaches, according to Dr. Crystal, which means it is unusual to never experience a headache in your lifetime. However, if you are experiencing headaches on a regular basis with more severe intensity, it is highly likely that