What are chronic migraines?
Up to 3-5% of people worldwide suffer from chronic migraines. However, it can be difficult to diagnose at times as the condition can be mistaken for chronic tension headaches, and some doctors believe that osteochondrosis or insufficient blood supply to the brain causes similar pain as well.
Chronic migraine is a condition in which headaches occur 15 days a month or more with at least 8 of those headaches having migraine features for over 3 months. The typical migraine symptoms include: nausea, throbbing or pulsating pain on one or both sides of the head, dizziness, and sensitivity to external factors such as light, sounds, or smells.
Chronic migraine development
Typically, before a person develops chronic migraine, they suffer from episodic migraines that increase in frequency over time until they eventually become chronic. About 2.5% of episodic migraines transform to chronic migraines. The American Migraine Foundation organizes the process of chronic migraine development into four steps:
- No migraines
- Low frequency episodic migraines (less than 10 headaches a month)
- High frequency episodic migraines (10-14 headaches a month)
- Chronic (15 or more headaches a month)
Other causes of chronic migraines include overuse of medications to relieve headaches, obesity, mood disorders (e.g. depression or anxiety), excessive caffeine intake, hyperthyroidism, and poor sleep. Previous physical and/or emotional trauma can also be a significant factor in the transition of migraines to chronic migraines.
This health condition can be very disruptive since the pain can prevent people from participating in normal daily activities including work or school. Therefore, it is crucial not to delay treatment.
Diagnosis and treatment
The most important thing to know for a diagnosis of chronic migraines are exactly how many headache days are experienced per month, as well as the symptoms of those headaches. Using a headache diary helps tremendously with keeping track of all the necessary data. It is important to record every headache, even if the intensity is not severe. Furthermore, you should record what medications you are taking and when. All of this will help the provider differentiate migraines, determine its’ nature, decide if medications are causing the headaches, and exclude other potential causes such as an underlying condition or other forms of chronic headaches.
If you believe you are experiencing chronic migraines or that your headache days per month have increased, contact a healthcare provider as soon as possible. A free consultation is provided with completion of a health questionnaire on our website, along with a digital headache journal.