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Migraines

The third most prevalent illness in the world

Nearly 25% of U.S. Households affected

A migraine is a severe headache that can cause significant pain for hours to days and is often disabling, so that the person is unable to function normally. Along with the pain, the person typically also experiences nausea and sensitivity to light and sound, often requiring them to take to their bed in total darkness. Migraines usually begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Migraine is very common – it’s the third most prevalent illness in the world, affecting nearly one fourth of U.S. households. The frequency of migraines varies from person to person: some people have attacks several times per month, while others might have just one per year or less. Though anyone can get migraines, they are particularly common among women during their reproductive years and tend to strike between ages 15 and 55.

Causes

Experts used to think that migraines were caused by the opening and narrowing of blood vessels in the brain. Today, though the causes are still not fully understood, genetics and environmental factors are thought to play a strong role. Specifically, migraines may be caused by changes in the brainstem and the way it interacts with certain nerves that control pain, and these changes may be inherited. Brain chemical imbalances may also be a factor, especially those involving the chemical serotonin which helps regulate pain.

Migraines may also be triggered by hormone fluctuations (in women), certain foods like cheese and processed items, food additives like MSG and aspartame, alcohol and caffeine, stress, bright light, strong odors like cigarette smoke or perfume, changes in sleep habits, excessive exercise, weather changes and certain medications including birth control pills and vasodilators.

 

Roughly 40 percent of chronic migraine patients suffer from an additional four chronic conditions, says Dr. Thorpe, who recently authored the paper “Prevalence, Health Care Spending and Comorbidities Associated with Chronic Migraine Patients.”

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VIDEOS

Learn more about migraines and the impact they can have on a person's quality of life.

ARTICLES & PRESS RELEASES

Jul 15

Easing the Pain of Migraine with Nurse Practitioners

/ Migraine
The Burden of Migraine About 1 in 7 people experience migraine, which are the second highest cause of disability in the world. Not just a headache—migraine is primary headache disorder, which means headache that is not caused by something else. Migraine is a serious condition that causes more than just headache pain, although the pain [...] ⇀ READ MORE
Jul 08

Signs Your Migraine Treatment Stopped Working — and What to Do If It Does

/ Migraine

The goal of migraine medication is for your symptoms to go away and not come back. Here’s what to do if it fails.

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Jul 07

When to Go to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care for a Headache

/ Migraine
When to Go to the Emergency Room or Urgent Care for a Headache Very few people ever want to go to the emergency room (ER). That is even more true now during the COVID-19 pandemic when hospitals and the risk of infection all feel pretty scary. In fact, there is evidence that fewer people in [...] ⇀ READ MORE
Jun 26

Managing Migraine During the Summer: 6 Tips to Alleviate Attacks

/ Migraine

Summer doesn’t have to be the season of your discontent. Employ this advice from neurology experts to avoid migraine triggers.

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Jun 24

Migraine and Healthcare Disparities

/ Migraine
What Are Healthcare Disparities A health disparity is defined as a difference in the health care received by individuals from different groups. For example, Hispanic people in the US are two and a half times less likely than white people to have health insurance. Although heart disease has been decreasing in the US, Black people [...] ⇀ READ MORE