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Headache patients may be missing out on treatment

Consultation rates for headache in general practice differ widely between sexes and suggest many patients are missing out on treatment, a large-scale study concludes.

Women were three times more likely than men to consult with headaches and were also prescribed drugs more often in consultations. Men, however, were more likely to be referred.

But the researchers found consulting rates for headache, and particularly for migraine, were well below recognised prevalence.

Study researcher Dr Martin Gulliford, senior lecturer in population sciences and health care research, said: 'Given the frequency of headache in the population, consultation rates in the UK of 4.4 per 100 are modest.

'If treatments can reduce morbidity, and 20 per cent of sickness absence is caused by headache, services may be underused.'

The research, published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry (March), studied 570,000 UK headache consultations over nine years.

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