A new survey has revealed that patients have been suffering with more frequent and severe migraines since the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic

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 on September 6-12, the survey was carried out online among 120 adults living with migraine in Ireland. It shows that 58 per cent of respondents were suffering more frequent migraines, with 69 per cent of this group reporting that their symptoms of migraine have become more severe since the pandemic began. Thirty-four per cent of respondents were in the 35-to-44 age group; 40 per cent in the 45-to-54 age group; and the remaining 26 per cent were in the 18-to-24 (3 per cent), 25-to-34 (17 per cent), and 55-to-65+ (6 per cent) age groups.

Of those respondents who said their migraine had become more frequent, over four-fifths, or 84 per cent, 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 per cent), a lack of sleep (63 per cent), and increased screen time (60 per cent). 

Working hours

The survey also found that among the individuals who were experiencing more frequent migraines, over one-third (37 per cent) were working from home, 21 per cent said that their working hours had increased during the pandemic, and 20 per cent were no longer working. A small number of respondents, 18 per cent, reported a decrease in the frequency of their migraines since the introduction of the Covid-19 restrictions. Similarly, 13 per cent of respondents reported a decrease in the severity of their migraines.

With regard to the availability of appointments with healthcare professionals, 52 per cent of respondents to the survey said that their appointments were either cancelled or postponed since the start of the pandemic. Almost half (49 per cent) of all respondents who experienced an increase in migraines reported cancelled or postponed appointments. While only 41 per cent of all respondents have had a virtual health-related consultation since the pandemic began, most of this group (68 per cent) rated their consultation as either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.

Stress

Dr Martin Ruttledge, Consultant Neurologist, Beaumont Hospital and Hermitage Medical Clinic, commented on the results: “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 four-to-five 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 GPs 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.”

For more information on migraines and the Migraine Association of Ireland, please visit http://www.migraine.ie or call 1850 200 378. Additionally, further information about living with migraine can be found on http://www.speakyourmigraine.ie.