Brett Dabruzzo’s first migraine hit when she was in high school. Pounding headaches and overwhelming nausea weren’t diagnosed as migraine until almost a decade later when Dabruzzo, Pharm.D., director, medical affairs, AbbVie, began working for a pharmaceutical company in its neurology department. A week into her job as a medical science liaison in Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and migraine, she recognized the signs of migraine and sought help, receiving a diagnosis for the neurological disease shortly after.
Dabruzzo says she tries not to let migraine stop her – but there are times where she can’t fight it off. Missed kids’ hockey games and date nights often add up to disappointment and guilt.
Elena Ruiz de la Torre, migraine advocate and executive director of the European Migraine and Headache Alliance, has also witnessed how migraine can disrupt all aspects of life – including work.
As someone who has faced migraine most of her life, Ruiz de la Torre says migraine hasn’t just interfered with tasks her jobs have required but also her chances of employment. She once missed a job interview because of an attack that left her sick and immobile. She called the company, explained that she had migraine and asked for another chance. To Ruiz de la Torre’s frustration, the company declined.
Ruiz de la Torre is not alone in experiencing negative consequences in the workplace because of migraine. According to a 2019 EMHA study assessing how migraine has impacted work for European patients, nearly 42% of respondents (N = 3,342) reported having difficulties in their company due to the disease while only around 30% of workers report that migraine doesn’t affect labor productivity.1
Above all, Ruiz de la Torre says awareness about how migraine impacts people – not just at work but everywhere – can help combat its stigma and bring hope to those who live with it.
“We don’t have to be shamed for it,” Ruiz de la Torre says about migraine. “I want [people with migraine] to live a future life in a much easier way than the one I have had to live because there was no understanding.”
- Ruiz de la Torre, E. R., Vicente-Herrero, T., Ramírez-Iñiguez de la Torre, V., & Capdevila-García, L. (2019). Migraine at work: European survey. Analysis of results and conclusions. European Migraine and Headache Alliance, 341. Available at: https://www.emhalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/EMHA-Migraine-at-work.pdf. Accessed on May 10, 2021.