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Study Finds High Prevalence of Migraines in HIV patients

By Sandra Knispel | Published 14 Dec 2011 09:33pm | comments
Psychology professor Todd Smitherman is one of several authors of a study that found a high prevalence of severe headaches and migraines among HIV/Aids patients.

According to a new study, one in two HIV patients suffers from debilitating headaches, many of those migraines. MPB’s Sandra Knispel spoke in Oxford with one of the authors of the study.

The study is a joint project between the Universities of Mississippi and Alabama, authored by Ole Miss alumnus Kale Kirkland and UM psychology professor Todd Smitherman, among others.

“The finding of the study in a nutshell was that a very large proportion of patients with HIV and AIDS are suffering from very debilitating headaches." Smitherman.

In the study, more then 80 percent of those who suffered from severe headaches were experiencing migraines, says UM assistant psychology professor Smitherman.

"“I think the most important implication is to draw physicians’ eye[s] towards monitoring the level of the HIV virus in a person’s blood. And in patients with particularly advanced disease or those patients who have very low CD4 levels, physicians should be attuned to potential headache symptoms in particular, Smitherman explains.

That’s important to know because HIV no longer means an immediate death sentence.

“Now that we have all those very effective medications, patients are living for much longer with HIV before it progresses into Aids," says Smitherman. "And as a result of that they’re developing lots of other medical conditions along the way.”

However, several AIDS experts MPB spoke to for this story had not experienced a high prevalence of migraines among their patients, which could either point to a problem with the study itself or conversely make its case for a general lack of physician awareness. Dr. Harold Henderson is a UMC professor of medicine, specializing in infectious diseases.

“Well, some of our patients have headaches, but I don’t think it’s 50 percent or more and most frequently the headaches are not described as severe or debilitating," says Henderson.

While the study may warrant further investigation one thing is clear: More than 9,500 Mississippians are currently living with HIV or AIDS, with rates among African Americans nearly eight times higher than among whites. With that the Magnolia state simply can’t afford to avert its eyes from the problem.  

Sandra Knispel, MPB News, Oxford.

For an abstract of the HIV headache study go to http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1526-4610.2011.02025.x/abstract

 

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Psychology professor Todd Smitherman is one of several authors of a study that found a high prevalence of severe headaches and migraines among HIV/Aids patients.


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