Migraine is more than headache pain. It is a neurological disease that produces severe head pain, often on one side of the head, but sometimes occurring on both sides. Other symptoms may include extreme sensitivity to light, sound, and even sometimes smells, confusion, as well as nausea and vomiting.
The pain and other symptoms of migraine can last for hours or even days, and can occur frequently. There are many triggers for migraines, including certain foods, exercise, changes in weather, and changing hormonal levels.
Although we don’t know exactly what causes migraine, great progress is being made. Researchers have identified some genetic associations and they are looking at the balance of neurochemicals in the brain and other neurological features that may play a role.
Several factors influence the risk of getting migraines, including genetics, age, gender, and changes in hormonal status.
Current estimates suggest that over 36 million Americans suffer from migraine1:
- almost all are over age 17
- more than half are over age 40
- 85% of people diagnosed are women
- 15% of people diagnosed are men
Women over 40 are the most commonly diagnosed and treated group of patients for migraine.2
When treating migraine, physicians prescribe both acute treatments and preventative treatments. All persons with migraine require acute treatment during an attack. A smaller number of people who have high disability or chronic migraine may require preventative treatment. Several classes of drugs have been used to acutely treat migraine during an attack. The most commonly prescribed migraine therapies are triptans, which were developed specifically to treat migraine by constricting the blood vessels in the brain to relieve pain and other symptoms during a migraine attack.
Up to 76% of diagnosed migraine patients have cardiovascular issues that either warn against or contraindicate the use of triptans.
Other patients cannot use triptans due to side effects or a lack of response.
Triptans, the current standard of care, were developed with the belief that vasoconstriction of the blood vessels of the brain was necessary to relieve migraine—but we now know that vasoconstriction is not necessary for the treatment of migraine.
- American Migraine Association.
- IMS Health, Facts Addressing Migraine Market Misperceptions, 2016.