Migraine sufferers are experiencing more frequent and severe migraines since the start of the pandemic, a new survey in Ireland has found. The survey, carried out by the Migraine Association of Ireland (MAI) and Novartis Ireland, shines a light on the impact that pandemic restrictions are having on migraine sufferers in Ireland.
Conducted to coincide with Migraine Awareness Week (September 6th – 12th), the survey was carried out online among 120 adults living with migraine in Ireland. The survey shows that 58% of respondents were getting more frequent migraines, with 69% of this group reporting their symptoms of migraine have become more severe since the pandemic began. 34% of respondents were in the 35-44 age group; 40% in the 45-54 age group and the remaining 26% in the 18-24 (3%), 25-34 (17%), and 55-65+ (6%) age group(s).
Of those respondents who said their migraine had become more frequent, over four fifths, or 84%, said that this was due to stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Other factors for triggering a moderate to severe increase in migraines included changes to their routine (67%), a lack of sleep (63%) and increased screen time (60%).
The survey also found that among the individuals who were experiencing more frequent migraines, over one-third (37%) were working from home, 21% said that their working hours had increased during the pandemic and 20% were no longer working. A small number of respondents, 18%, reported a decrease in the frequency of their migraines since the introduction of the COVID-19 restrictions. Similarly, 13% of respondents reported a decrease in the severity of their migraines.
With regard to the availability of appointments with healthcare professionals, 52% of respondents to the survey said that their appointments were either cancelled or postponed since the start of the pandemic. almost half (49%) of all respondents who experienced an increase in migraines reported cancelled or postponed appointments. While only 41% of all respondents have had a virtual health-related consultation since the pandemic began, most of this group (68%) rated their consultation as either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.
Migraine is a complex neurological condition which affects approximately 12-15% of the irish population, or roughly half a million people in Irelandi. It is Ireland’s fifth leading cause of disabilityii and while it affects people of all ages, migraines are three times more common in women than in meni. Despite its high prevalence, migraine remains a misunderstood and under-managed conditioniii.
Commenting on the survey results, Patrick Little, CEO, the Migraine Association of Ireland, said; “Our survey shows that the pandemic is proving to be a stressful time for migraine sufferers, with respondents reporting a sharp increase in the frequency and severity of migraines. We are particularly concerned that over four – fifths of those surveyed said that COVID-related stress is causing them to suffer from more frequent migraines, especially at a time when some appointments with healthcare professionals were being postponed. Please contact your GP to talk through your concerns and avail of an online consultation if one is provided, as an increase in frequency or severity of migraines should not be ignored. The Migraine Association of Ireland is here to support people with migraine and other headache disorders, and their carers and families. Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1850 200 378 if you have any questions or need someone to talk to.”
Dr. Martin Ruttledge, Consultant Neurologist, Beaumont Hospital & Hermitage Medical Clinic said; “It’s worrying that the survey shows that many migraine sufferers are either experiencing more severe or frequent migraines. However, it is not unexpected, as we know that stress is a very common exacerbating factor in this condition, and it has been a very stressful period for everybody over the last 4-5 months with the Covid pandemic. Migraine, especially the more chronic forms, can be a very disabling neurological disorder, and the worldwide uncertainty in recent months has only made the situation worse. Patients should seek advice from their primary care doctors and other healthcare professionals if they are struggling. We are still having face to face and virtual consultations in our migraine clinic, and many GP's are reviewing their patients regularly, both in person and by phone. There are effective treatments available for many migraine sufferers and we are still available for our patients.”