By Peggy Peck, Executive Editor, MedPage Today
Published: July 30, 2011
When asked if they would vote for a presidential candidate who gets migraines, 61% of the 2,392 respondents to a MedPage Today online poll said "Yes", and several pointed out that the list of Oval Office inhabitants includes several who had "serious medical issues."
The survey was prompted by news reports about the migraine history of Republican presidential hopeful, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn).
More that one physician who took the time to offer comments pointed out that the news reports about Bachmann's migraines did not offer enough information to "make an informed decision. Certainly release of medical records would be called for."
Oft-cited examples of presidents' less-than-excellent health were Franklin D. Roosevelt's polio -- although knowledge of his hypertension might have been more useful information for voters in the 1944 election -- and John F. Kennedy's Addison's disease.
Moreover, many of the 81 healthcare professionals and consumers who posted comments to the survey said that neither polio nor Addison's posed the same concern as chronic migraine.
"One cannot compare FDR's polio, physically disabling but having no effect on decision-making, to migraine in its severest form," wrote one doctor.
Wrote another, "I think I'd rather a candidate be in a wheelchair than have a candidate who at any moment must retreat into a dark quiet place in order to feel better and make decisions."
Yet another doctor said the issue was whether a medical condition would impair cognition: "Roosevelt had polio which affected his legs. Kennedy had back problems which did not affect his mentation either. Migraines are typically worsened by stress. ... One of my colleagues literally can't leave the house for two days when he has a migraine. I can't imagine a President of the United States being able to 'take off work' if so debilitated."
One reader cited Woodrow Wilson's stroke but no one mentioned Dwight D. Eisenhower's heart attacks.
Control an Issue
In several news stories Bachmann described her migraines as controlled by medication, an assertion that several health professionals questioned.
"I find that the prodromal stage causes sufferers to be unrealistic; like thinking they can 'fight this one off.' Even though this never happens," wrote one. "I find that the attacks are debilitating and can cause a sufferer to seek or require isolation. I find that medication may relieve the pain but then, in my observation, the brain does not do cognitive tasks well. I find that in the post medication stage judgment is slightly impaired. I have lived with two migraine sufferers. Controlled by medication? This statement is suspect to my mind."
A pharmacist wrote, "I have seen far too many cases of patients who are totally unable to perform adequately while under siege from a severe migraine. Despite therapy, medication and counseling, these people, with all of their inherent talents have often been useless for extended periods of time. These facts, accompanying a position which is always subject to great stress, leads me to believe that such a person could present a great danger to our country. A clear mind is essential. A migraine disturbed mind could potentially lead to chaos."
A number of readers said that they, too, were suffered chronic migraine, and from this group there was little support for a candidate with migraines.
"I wonder if all of the 'No' votes are from people who have actually dealt with migraines over a lifetime? I have and though my migraines are 'under control,' there really are times when I am not at my optimal intellectual capacity. It might have worked in Woodrow Wilson's time (after he had a stroke) but not in today's world. A migraineur would have to be delusional to put herself/himself in such a stressful position because stress really is the worst trigger, along with erratic sleep patterns, some foods or smells, loud noise and other environmental factors. A migraine is not a headache ... it is more than that," said one.
“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.” Buddha[/color][/i]