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Study finds cluster headaches can ‘dramatically interfere with people’s work capacity’

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Stockholm — Employees who experience short, severe and frequent headaches – known as cluster headaches – average nearly twice as many missed workdays as their colleagues, according to a study recently published by the American Academy of Neurology.

“Cluster headaches are short but extremely painful headaches that can occur many days, or even weeks, in a row,” AAN says. They may last 15 minutes to three hours, and frequently occur above or around the eye. In the United States, about 1 out of 1,000 people experience cluster headaches.

For the study, a group of Sweden-based researchers analyzed data for 3,240 Swedes of working age who were treated for cluster headaches in hospitals or by specialists from 2001 to 2010, and compared it with data for 16,200 members of the general population. They then examined a registry to determine how many sick and disability days each study participant used in 2010. The average number of sick and disability days for workers with cluster headaches totaled 63, compared with 34 for those without the headaches.

 

Other findings:

  • Female workers with cluster headaches used an average of 84 sick and disability days, compared with 53 days for male workers.
  • Workers with cluster headaches who completed only elementary school used an average of 86 sick and disability days, compared with 65 days for those who completed high school and 41 days for those with a college education.

“This study shows that cluster headaches dramatically interfere with people’s work capacity,” study author Christina Sjöstrand, of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, said in a press release. “More research is needed on how to best treat and manage this form of headache so people who experience them have fewer days in pain and miss fewer days of work.”

The study was published online Feb. 5 in the AAN journal Neurology.

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