Migraines and Life Insurance

It’s one thing to get a headache, quite another to get a migraine.  Anyone who has suffered through migraines knows just how debilitating they can be.  While doctors haven’t been able to pinpoint the cause of migraines, there are several triggers that modern medicine knows will bring on an episode.

In many instances, migraines can be controlled with medications and other remedies.  Because that’s the case, people with migraines typically can get traditional life insurance.

A Closer Look at Migraines

According to the National Headache Foundation, it’s estimated that about 28 million Americans suffer from migraines.  Women tend to get migraines more often than men, and they typically last from four hours to up to three days or longer.  The frequency of migraines will vary widely, ranging from an attack every few days to perhaps a couple of times a year.

Although the root causes of migraines are not known, medical professionals do know that they are related to genetic causes and changes in the brain.  A migraine begins when nerve cells that are hyperactive send out signals to blood vessels, causing them to constrict.  The blood vessels eventually expand, and at the same time, the body releases serotonin, prostaglandins and other substances that cause the vessels to become inflamed.  When this happens, the constriction and the dilation are extremely painful.

People with a tendency to get migraines can sometimes trace the nature of their condition back to their parents, because it is believed that migraine sufferers may inherit certain triggers that cause migraines.  In fact, 4 out of 5 migraine sufferers has some kind of family history of migraines.

Some of these triggers include:

Hormonal changes – Women who are known to have migraines and experience fluctuations in estrogen often have headaches.  It has been documented that female migraine sufferers often times get headaches just before or during their periods, when their estrogen levels drop significantly.  Conversely, women may also experience headaches during menopause or pregnancy.  In some women, taking medications that serve as hormone replacement therapy can either find this intensifies or lessens the effects of migraines.  Each woman is different in how she reacts when artificial hormones are introduced.

Stress – This is often cited as one of the most common reasons for a migraine headache.  During stressful periods, the body releases certain chemicals in the brain to counteract the “flight or fight” response.  But when these chemicals are released, they can impact a person’s vascular system which can trigger a migraine.   Also, if a person tends to suffer from anxiety, worry or other related emotions, the resulting increased muscle tension will dilate blood vessels and increase the severity of a migraine attack.

Food sensitivities – Some foods that are high in additives such as nitrates can also trigger migraines.  Nitrates are found in things such as pepperoni, hot dogs, and lunch meats.  Research has also shown that aspartame, and the food preservative MSG (monosodium glutamate) typically found in Chinese food, may also be a migraine trigger.  Aged cheeses, alcoholic beverages, salty foods and processed foods are also possible migraine triggers as well.

Caffeine – headaches from caffeine withdrawals are well documented.  Blood vessels become sensitized to caffeine, and when none is introduced to the body, a headache may take place.  The good news is that to stop the headaches, caffeine is often used to treat migraine attacks.

Changes in sleep patterns – Too little or too much sleep can also trigger migraine attacks.  Jet lag is also cited as a headache cause in some cases.

Sensory overload – Bright lights, loud noises or strong smells such as perfumes, secondhand smoke or paint thinner can trigger migraines as well.

Fatigue – An overly tired body is also prone to migraine attacks.

Related medical conditions – Migraines are often times considered a symptom of other diseases, such as a stroke, asthma, hypertension, chronic fatigue syndrome or sleep disorders.

Migraines are much more than just simple headaches.  Symptoms of migraines often include throbbing pain, sensitivity to light, noise and odors, vomiting and diarrhea, fatigue, dizziness and a loss of appetite.

Fortunately, there are many ways to treat migraines, ranging from the use of ibuprofen and acetaminophen to anti-nausea and migraine abortive drugs, biofeedback and magnetic stimulation.  While these are not always perfect solutions, they are effective in many cases, and that helps to make a migraine sufferer much more insurable.

Applying for Life Insurance If You Suffer From Migraines

Because there are many treatments available for migraine sufferers, life insurance is generally available for those seeking coverage. The key to obtaining coverage is how you will be classified, which will determine what you pay in premiums. Underwriters will use various factors to classify you as a mild, moderate or severe migraine sufferer.  They will look at things such as:

When you were first diagnosed with migraines.  The length of time you have suffered is important because it can help establish a medical history and identify the frequency, intensity, duration and symptoms of your headaches.  In some cases, it can also help to pinpoint the trigger factors that cause your migraines.

The frequency of your attacks.  Once or twice a year will be treated differently than several times a month.  The frequency may also be a contributing factor to other related medical conditions that can be debilitating in nature.

What medications you are taking?  If you are taking over-the-counter or prescription medications, an underwriter will want to know how effective they are and how often you take them.

Can you pinpoint your trigger factors?  If you are able to be specific in the root causes of your migraines, then you can more effectively be treated.  When you are aggressive in your attempts to manage migraines, this sends a signal to the insurance company that you are committed to trying to maintain as healthy of a posture as possible.

What diagnostic tests have you had recently? Certain types of tests can rule out other causes of your headaches ranging from cancer, to glaucoma or internal bleeding in your brain.  Clearly defining that your headaches are caused by migraines is an important piece of information for an insurance company.

If, for any reason, you are turned down for a traditional life insurance policy, you still have the option of applying for a guaranteed issue life insurance policy.  Unlike a traditional policy, a guaranteed policy means that you will not have to undergo any medical exam.  In exchange, your coverage will be limited to a lesser dollar amount and your death benefits will be extremely limited during the first few years the policy is in force.