Updated 04 July 2014

Inadequate treatment leads to chronic migraines

People who receive inadequate treatment for acute migraine headaches are more likely to develop chronic migraines, according to a new study.


People who receive inadequate treatment for acute migraine headaches are more likely to develop chronic migraines, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at data from more than 4 600 people with episodic migraines (14 or fewer migraine days per month) and found that 48% of them received poor or very poor treatment.

These patients were more likely to progress to having chronic migraines (15 or more migraine days a month) than those who received better treatment, according to the study, which was presented this week at the International Headache Congress meeting in Boston.

Within a year, about 8% of patients who received very poor treatment progressed to chronic migraine, compared with 4.4% of those who received poor treatment, 2.9% of those who received moderate treatment and 2.5% of those who received the best treatment.

Migraines are debilitating

Migraines are debilitating headaches involving intense pulsing or throbbing pain, and often nausea, vomiting and hypersensitivity to light and sound.

The study was conducted by a team from the Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York City, and Vedanta Research, in Chapel Hill, NC.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"These findings are exciting as they provide clinical targets for intervention. When we discover factors that increase the risk of progression, health care providers can focus their efforts in those areas to improve care and outcomes," study co-author Dawn Buse said in an International Headache Congress news release.

"In this case, we have found several factors in acute migraine treatment which may likely improve outcomes, including using medications that work quickly and maintain pain-free results, which allows and empowers people who live with migraines the freedom and confidence to make plans and fully engage in their lives," Buse said.

More information

The US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about migraines.

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Dr Elliot Shevel is a South African migraine surgery pioneer and the founder and medical director of The Headache Clinic in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, South Africa. The Headache Clinic is a multidisciplinary practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of Primary Headaches and Migraines. Dr Shevel is also the main author of all scientific publications generated by his team. He recently won a high level science debate in which he was able to prove that the current migraine diagnosis and classification is not based on data. Tertiary Education - Dr Shevel holds both Dental and Medical degrees, and practises as a specialist Maxillo-facial and Oral Surgeon. Follow the Headache Clinic on Twitter@HeadacheClinic.

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