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Headache GP to study with world's best

Headache GP to study with world's best

Wednesday 22 June 2022

Headache GP to study with world's best

Wednesday 22 June 2022


A GP who works in Guernsey will soon be studying with some of the world's leading experts in headache and migraine.

Dr Michael Long, a GP partner at Island Health, is one of only 25 people accepted onto a two-year course to study headache disorders at the University of Copenhagen and Danish Headache Centre.

"The Danish Headache Centre is the leading headache centre in Europe. The programme will strongly enhance my competency in the diagnosis, treatment and management of headache disorders," said Dr Long.

He starts the part-time course in September. He will continue to practice locally throughout the course.

"A lot of the course is delivered via distance learning, but I will be required to visit Copenhagen for several weeks throughout the two-year programme. I am very grateful to the practice for supporting me to undertake this course and allowing additional study leave to do this," said Dr Long.

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Pictured: Dr Michael Long will study at the University of Copenhagen.

Dr Long said that his interest in headache and migraine was sparked by his personal experiences of the conditions.

"Having been a headache sufferer myself throughout my university and early career days and struggling to get the correct diagnosis, I hope I can empathise with patients who suffer the same.

"The more you study about migraine and the links to other medical conditions, the more interesting it becomes. A lot of doctors find headache a difficult area to manage but I really enjoy the challenge of this.

"I also like the fact that in a vast majority of cases there are simple management strategies available which do not involve medication and which can make a significant impact on a patient's condition and lead to a good improvement in a patient’s symptoms."

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Pictured: Dr Michael Long was a sufferer of headaches when he was younger and this sparked his interest in the condition as a doctor.

Dr Long is also a GP headache specialist at the National Migraine Centre, which is based in London.

He estimates that he currently spends about 10% of his practice time in Guernsey working with patients with headache and migraine, but he said "this is increasing at quite a rate recently".

"Migraine affects one in seven people, which means that more than 9,000 patients in Guernsey will have this condition. However, it remains undiagnosed and untreated in at least 50% of patients, and fewer than 50% of migraine patients consult a doctor.

"I am passionate about spreading awareness about this debilitating condition and improving the care for migraine patients both through my work with the National Migraine Centre and at Island Health."

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Pictured: Dr Michael Long is based at St Sampson's Medical Centre, part of Island Health.

Dr Long’s interest is also sustained by the range of cases of migraine and headache which he sees locally and nationally.

"It is incredibly varied but certainly some patients I see at the National Migraine Centre in particular are significantly disabled by their symptoms and are unable to work or fully function in society due to their condition," he said.

"I think people often dismiss migraine as just a headache, but it is extremely important to recognise the huge impact and variety of symptoms that migraine patients can have. The good news is that for most patients with migraine it gives episodic episodes that can be adequately controlled.

"It is thought that 50% of patients, however, never go to the doctor. It is these patients that I would encourage to attend or seek help as there are lots of good management strategies available. People assume it is normal to have frequent headaches, but often this is migraine and can be managed well."

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Pictured: It is estimated that thousands of people in Guernsey are suffering with headaches but not seeking medical help when their symptoms could be eased by lifestyle changes, such as diet.

Dr Long said that patients in Guernsey would benefit from his additional studies with the University and Centre in Denmark.

"There have been a lot of exciting developments in migraine management over the last few years and the Danish Headache Centre is at the forefront of studies into improving migraine care," he said.

"By studying with these leading experts, I hope to be able to bring some of their expertise to my practice and to be able to provide the latest, evidence-based management options.

"Migraine is a complex neurological disorder and to study the science behind this will improve my understanding and diagnostic skills. The correct diagnosis is the most important aspect of improving migraine care."

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What is migraine?

Migraine is a complex neurological disease that has been identified as the leading cause of years lived with disability in the under-50s. This means it has a huge socio-economic impact. In the UK, it is estimated that 43 million days are lost each year from work and education because of migraine.

Although migraine often starts around puberty, it mostly affects adults in their working years. However, it can also be present in children and the elderly.

Infantile colic in children is thought to be a migraine derivative. Older children commonly present with recurrent abdominal pain. In females, it commonly gets much worse around the peri-menopause.

Simple lifestyle modifications can often have a beneficial impact for migraine sufferers if these are correctly identified as the problem. In recent years, there have been many new developments in both acute and preventative migraine treatment.

Pictured top (inset): Dr Michael Long.

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