Study: Patients Report Worse Migraine Symptoms During COVID-19 Pandemic

Patients reported more frequent and severe migraines, along with overuse of analgesics.

Patients with migraines had a much worse experience during coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to recent research.

Patients reported that their migraines were more frequent and severe, and said they overused analgesics, according to the article published in The Journal of Headache and Pain.1 Many also did not communicate with their neurologists.

In addition, the authors from the Ibn Sina Hospital in Kuwait, determined that patients who were infected with COVID-19 reported a worsening of their headaches while they had the virus.

The researchers administered an online, self-reported survey that included demographic, migraine-related, COVID-19-specific and overall psychosocial variables between July 15 and July 30, 2020.

In comparison to pre-pandemic period, approximately 60% of patients reported an increase in migraine frequency, 16% reported a decrease in frequency, and 10.3% transformed to chronic migraine.

A majority (64%) of patients reported that their migraine severity increased during the pandemic.

Most (61.5%) did not communicate with their neurologists.

Nearly half (46.9%) of patients reported adherence to treatment. However, 58.7% said they overused analgesics. Botox injections cancellation had a negative impact on 66.1% from those receiving it.

Only 22.5% reported visiting an emergency department for acute migraine management, “probably for fear of contracting the virus,” the authors wrote.

“We believe that poor communication with the healthcare system had forced patients to attempt self-management, by overusing analgesics or using traditional medicine which was not correlated with satisfactory headache care,” the authors wrote.

Results of a recent survey of 155 countries conducted by the World Health Organization showed that nearly half of the patients with chronic diseases failed to receive their regular medical care and medications since COVID-19 pandemic began, the authors added.

Around 4% of those surveyed were infected with COVID-19, and a majority (63.4%) reported worsening of their headaches while they had the virus.

Nearly 80% of patients said they symptoms of anxiety and/or depression during the pandemic and 78% had sleep disturbances.

Female gender, shorter disease duration, having difficulty in getting medications, lack of communication with treating neurologist, non-compliance to treatment, and working during the pandemic had a statistically significant correlation with worsening of migraine symptoms, according to the findings.

“In this survey, COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on patients with migraine. More than half of them experienced increase in migraine frequency and severity, in comparison to pre-pandemic period. This was understandably accompanied by overuse of analgesics and acute migraine treatments,” the authors wrote.

Long-term strategies should be validated and implemented to deliver quality care for patients with migraine, with emphasis on psychosocial well-being, the authors wrote.

Reference:

1. Al-Hashel JY, Ismail II. Impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on patients with migraine: a web-based survey study. 2020. J Headache Pain. https://doi.org/10.1186/s10194-020-01183-6