Migraine can get in the way of work — be open with your supervisors about your condition

If there are migraine triggers where you work, see if your employer will make changes.

Migraine attacks can be debilitating, making work difficult, if not impossible.

On average, people who have migraine miss 4 1/2 days of work every year because of their condition. There are 11 more days of the year when those who experience migraine are at work but unable to fully complete their job responsibilities.

“This really can have an impact on job performance,” said Brian M. Plato, D.O., a neurologist and headache specialist at Norton Neuroscience Institute.

If you’re experiencing debilitating migraine, Dr. Plato recommends starting a dialog with supervisors at work.

“Migraine is not a necessarily a predictable condition. It can flare up periodically, due to triggers or other factors that come up from time to time,” he said. “Be upfront and discuss the diagnosis of migraine, discuss the impairments that migraine attacks cause.”

For some, migraine can cause impaired vision or an inability to formulate thoughts.

“This is important for those people who are spending significant amounts of time around you at work to be aware of,” Dr. Plato said.

Lights, noises and scents can be significant triggers of migraine at work, affecting productivity. If there are migraine triggers where you work, see if your employer will make changes. These could include replacing overhead lighting with lamps, or adding dimmable bulbs, or moving your desk away from a loud machine or triggering odor.

Special filters on computer screens can help. So can FL-41 eyeglass lenses, which are amber-tinted and can be helpful with migraine while at work on computer screens.

Learn about migraine and treatments

Headache School, presented by the Norton Neuroscience Institute Headache Center, is an on-demand series of five video presentations designed to inform new and existing patients about their headaches and what treatments are available.

Register to learn more

Dr. Plato also recommends discussing medications with supervisors and co-workers, including medication side effects.

If you’re taking a new, as-needed medication, you may consider trying it when you’re at home, rather than at work. Let co-workers know about the potential side effects that you experience if you need to take your migraine medication at work.

Medication policies are another reason to talk to employers about your migraine condition. For example, pilots and commercial drivers have very specific sets of rules about medications they can take at work.

If a medication is prohibited by an employer, Dr. Plato recommends talking to your doctor about an alternative.

For patients who experience debilitating migraine, federal law may offer support for accommodations, as well as unpaid time off.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, companies with more than 15 employees need to make reasonable workplace accommodations for those with a disability, which could include debilitating migraine. Businesses are not required to make changes in the essential operations or changes that have an excessive cost.

Employers with at least 50 employees must provide up to 12 weeks (60 days) of job-protected, unpaid leave per year under the Family and Medical Leave Act to workers with a serious health condition such as migraine. This can be either in the form of reduced schedule, meaning intermittent leave, or short-term or long-term leave.

Sometimes short-term leave might end up being necessary if a major medication adjustment is needed. Concern about side effects of medication for debilitating migraine or making many medication adjustments all at once can be cause for short-term leave, according to Dr. Plato.

Schedule an Appointment

Select an appointment date and time from available spots listed below.