Do you suffer from migraines? The climate crisis may be affecting you more than thought

Migraines are increasing in frequency and intensity among Americans. Could it be due to the climate crisis?

Although the number of Americans suffering from 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 become much worse, according to a recent study.

The report, published in early May in the journal Headache, analyzed 11 studies among adults from 1989 to 2018 on sporadic and chronic migraines. Researchers found that the prevalence of migraines over the past three decades has remained stable, but they found that Migraine Disability Assessment Scale scores, which measure how they affect a person's daily activities, jumped from 22 % to 42.4% since 2004, according to the study.

“Disability” scores reflect the severity of the migraine. Migraines affect an estimated 39 million adults, according to the American Migraine Foundation.

“The burden initially increased more significantly among women and has since stabilized, but the rate in men has continued to increase,” senior author Fred Cohen, a professor of medicine and neurology at the College of Medicine, told NBC News. Icahn Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

“Our research indicates that the average monthly frequency of headaches has grown over the past 20 years,” he said.

Timothy A. Collins, chief of the headache division in the Department of Neurology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, said migraines make people less productive in school and work. work, attend fewer social and leisure activities and perform less household chores because these discomforts are more frequent and stronger. Collins was not involved in the study.

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

According to Cohen, the climate crisis can lead to more irregular and severe weather conditions, which are known triggers for migraines: “As extreme events, such as hurricanes, become more frequent and intense, they could contribute to an increase in migraine attacks. migraine and its severity.

There is evidence that thunderstorms and barometric pressure can trigger headaches, but it's unclear whether “regular” air pollution (such as foul air from wildfires) is a migraine trigger, Collins added.

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

British researchers warned Wednesday that extreme weather and temperature fluctuations can aggravate neurological disorders such as stroke, dementia and schizophrenia. The climate crisis could also be related to the “severity, duration and frequency” of migraine, according to the article published Wednesday in the journal Lancet Neurology.

“Worsening weather conditions (such as rising temperatures, extreme weather events, and increased pollution) are likely to cause two types of effects: an increase in the frequency of attacks in people who already suffer from migraine and an increase in the overall incidence of migraine,” the University College London scientists wrote.

Monitoring weather changes, such as with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) HeatRisk tool or your local National Weather Service Forecast Office, can help sensitive migraine patients. to extreme conditions.

Mark Burish, director of the Will Erwin Headache Research Center at UTHealth Houston, said the research highlights a “concerning trend,” but it's unclear why migraine disability is worsening.

Rochelle Frank, a clinical professor of neurology at the University of California, Davis School of Medicine, said: “There are many factors that could be contributing to these findings.” More research is needed, she added.

How to avoid migraines

Treatment for migraines may be based on the patient's medical history, other medications prescribed, and personal preferences, according to Burish.

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

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

“For patients who get headaches frequently or get a lot of headaches despite their treatment, we add preventative treatment,” Burish said.

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

Preventive medication can often reduce the number of days people suffer from headaches per month by more than 50%, Collins added.

Not all treatments require medication. Many people don't realize that everyday conditions (dehydration, lack of sleep, skipping meals, and emotional stress) can trigger symptoms.

Dietary changes, such as avoiding caffeinated drinks, chocolate or alcohol that can trigger a migraine, improving sleep and taking vitamin and mineral supplements, can also have a significant impact on headache health, he said. Cohen.