Migraines are a mysterious affliction. Not unlike most presidential candidates, they often start with a unique aura. They tend to be cerebral and are inevitably one-sided. And also like the range of candidates in a field, they run the spectrum.
Leading migraine treatment specialist and neurologist Dr. Joel Saper told CNN, "The headache migraine runs the gamut from being so mild you hardly know it's there, to being so severe you can't get out of bed."
In the event of a Bachmann presidency, one aspect that would differ from her current lifestyle of rank and file member of Congress, is increased medical access. As president, she would have medical care available at all hours of the day and night, and catching migraines early are crucial to mitigating their fury. With a doctor on hand is key, per Saper, "At the first sign of a headache coming on, they're going to be Johnny-on-the-spot with whatever works for that headache."
However, that is assuming she responds to treatment, and a very small number of migraine sufferers do not. Saper said, "There are people that don't respond to treatment no matter how good the doctor is or how good the treatment is, that person just doesn't get better. It's beyond our science."
As for whether a migraine affects one's lucidity and decision-making, Saper said, "It's a rare patient that can't think straight. That can't do anything. It's not your typical migraine patient. And I would just suggest that until we have more information, we've got to be careful not to overstate this."
In the Daily Caller piece that broke the story, the headline contained the diction "heavy pill use alleged." Saper says that again, it depends on the patient and is a very rare case in which prescribed medication impairs a patient. Some do take narcotics, and it can be a difficult process to find the right medication. However, for most of the difficult cases on his docket, with proper treatment and medication, a patient's "life is restored."
Even though he does not "carry a flag for Bachmann," he sees tying her to the extreme cases he treats is "the dangerous part of this story, that they're putting her into the extreme category of people that are strung out on drugs, compromised more often than not, isn't capable of being president." He added, "From what we know right now … that's unfair. Now, maybe that's all true but we don't know that yet right now. … We need to validate it a bit."
And he puts that onus on Bachmann. "I do think she has an obligation to tell people that look to her to be president what the truth is about her medical condition, just like we'd want anybody to divulge before we elected them. Do they have a fatal illness? Do they have an illness that's going to make them demented in three years?"
He continued, "Then they have a need to tell us. I think at some point Ms. Bachmann needs to tell us those things and then we can draw those conclusions based upon what we know is factual. We don't know that right now."
Unprompted, he questioned the fairness to women in the tone of the Bachmann/migraine narrative because they afflict three women for every man who comes down with them. Yet it was the disability angle of the tone of the story that seemed to most concern Saper. "We, in the headache treatment community fought too hard to bring legitimacy to this illness. And we don't want to see people smeared because they suffered from it, unless there's good reason for it."