What are Chronic Migraines?
Chronic migraines are defined as at least 15 headache days a month, with at least eight days of having headaches with migraine features for more than three months. The chronic headache begins as less frequent headache episodes that gradually change into a more frequent headache pattern.
Chronic migraine develops over time due to several factors:
- The number of episodic headaches steadily increases over time.
- Medications once used to treat episodes of headaches become overused in an attempt to keep the increased number of headaches under control. The most common drugs responsible for medication overuse headaches are over-the-counter medications, such as Excedrin® and generic equivalents, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and acetaminophen (Tylenol®).
Other factors associated with chronic migraine include:
- Mood disorders, especially anxiety and depression
- Ongoing disrupted sleep pattern
- Excessive caffeine intake
- History of severe emotional (stressful life events) or physical trauma
Symptoms of episodic migraine and chronic migraine are the same. The difference is simply the increase in frequency of the number of headaches. Typical migraine symptoms include:
- Head pain that is moderate to severe in intensity, worsened by physical activity/movement
- Throbbing pain or pressure-like pain
- Pain on one or both sides of the head
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and smells
Signs an episodic migraine is transforming to a chronic migraine include:
- Having a growing number of migraine attacks
- Taking more medication because of the growing number of attacks
Who suffers from Chronic Migraines?
Chronic migraine affects between 3 and 5 percent of people in the United States. Approximately 3 percent of people who have episodic migraine transform into chronic migraine each year.
Treatment is focused on managing lifestyle choices, headache triggers, and migraine attacks, and providing preventive treatments to reduce future attacks.
Founder Jim French on his son, Brian’s Story
My son suffered from frequent migraines throughout his teenage years. In 2015, he and I began logging the migraines with pen and paper but quickly realized that was futile if we didn’t also log the environment or nutrition. Being lazy engineers and future software developers, we came up with the idea that we would use an Amazon Echo skill to verbally log the migraines and automatically log the environment. We started defining the skill and tagging approach, but his migraines stopped, and so did we.