Are migraines getting worse?

Migraines are increasing in frequency and severity among Americans: Could climate change be the cause?

While the number of Americans with migraines has remained stable over the past 30 years, their impact on people’s daily activities — including missing social events or being less productive at school or work — has increased. much worse, according to a recent study.

The report, published in early May in the journal Headache, analyzed 11 studies among US adults from 1989 to 2018 on both episodic and chronic migraines. ​​​​Researchers found that the prevalence of migraines over the past three decades has remained stable, but they found Migraine Disability Rating Scale scores, which measure how migraines affect a person’s daily activities., jumping from 22.0% to 42.4% since 2004, the study found.

The “disability” scores indicate how severe a migraine is.

Migraines affect an estimated 39 million adults in the US, according to the Migraine Foundation of America.

“While the burden increased more markedly among women first and has since stabilized, the rate of burden in men continues to increase,” lead author Dr. Fred Cohen, assistant professor in medicine and neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, NBC News said.

“Furthermore, our research shows that the average monthly frequency of headaches has increased over the past 20 years.”

Dr. Timothy A. Collins, chief of the headache division in the neurology department at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, said migraines are causing people to be less productive at school and work, attending fewer activities. social and leisure and that they do. less housework because of the more frequent and stronger migraines. Collins was not part of the study.

The Mount Sinai researchers note that the observed increase in frequency and the negative impact of migraines on work and home productivity may be due to increased social awareness of migraines and less stigma surrounding the debilitating condition.

Climate change may lead to more extreme and extreme weather conditions, which have been identified as triggers for migraines, Cohen said.

“As extreme events, such as hurricanes, become more frequent and more intense, they may be contributing to an increase in migraine attacks and their severity,” he said.

There’s some evidence that thunderstorms and barometric pressure can trigger headaches, but it’s unclear whether “regular” air pollution — like bad air from wildfires — causes migraines, Collins said.

These weather changes can trigger a migraine by disrupting the balance of chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, according to the Mayo Clinic. Weather-related triggers include bright sunlight, extreme heat or cold, sun glare and high humidity.

British researchers warned on Wednesday that extreme weather and heat fluctuations could contribute to neurological disorders such as stroke, dementia and schizophrenia. Climate change may also be linked to migraine “severity, duration and frequency,” according to the paper published Wednesday in the Lancet Neurology.

“Deteriorating climate conditions (including rising temperatures, extreme weather patterns, and increasing pollution) are likely to have two types of effects: an increased frequency of attacks in people who already have migraine, and an increase in the total number of migraine,” the scientists. from University College London to write.

Monitoring weather changes, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s HeatRisk tool or your local National Weather Service Forecast Office, can help migrant patients who are sensitive to extreme weather.

Dr. Mark Burish, director of the Will Erwin Headache Research Center at UTHealth Houston, said the research shows a “worrying trend,” but it remains unclear why migraine disability is worsening.

Dr. Rochelle Frank, clinical professor of neurology at the University of California Davis School of Medicine, “There are many factors that may be contributing to these results.”

More research is needed, she said.

How to avoid migraines

Treatment for migraines may be based on the patient’s medical history, other medications being prescribed, as well as personal preference, Burish said.

One of the main risk factors for increased severity and frequency of migraine attacks is inadequate treatment, Cohen said.

“As needed” treatments can range from over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, to prescription medications and wearable devices, Burish said.

“For patients who have frequent headaches or are very burdened by their headaches despite their ‘as needed’ treatment, we add preventative treatment,” Burish said.

This may include over-the-counter supplements, prescription medications, self-administered injections, wearable devices, infusions and procedures performed by providers, he said.

Preventive medication can often reduce the number of days people get headaches each month by more than 50%, Collins said.

Not all treatments require medication. Many people may not realize how common conditions – dehydration, lack of sleep, skipping meals and emotional stress – can trigger symptoms.

Dietary changes such as caffeinated beverages, chocolate or alcohol that can trigger migraines, improving sleep hygiene and vitamin/mineral supplements can have a significant impact on headache health, Cohen said.

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