Migraines Could Be Predicted with New Stress Model

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Migraine is described as a primary headache disorder and is a common condition. It produces a headache that is moderate to severe, and that is generally one- sided, pulsating, and capable of lasting for hours.

Migraine attacks can be incredibly painful and debilitating, sometimes confining the recipient to a darkened room for their duration. Nausea and other abdominal symptoms can also accompany them.

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Tending to be more common in women, at a ratio of around 2: 1, migraines most commonly begin during puberty and are more likely to affect people aged between 35 and 45.

The condition is estimated to affect around 16 to 23 percent of adults aged 18 or older in the United States. A condition this prevalent has a substantial financial effect on the country. For example, one study estimated the lost productivity in the country, due to missed work, to be $5.6 billion to $17.2 billion per year.

Predicting a migraine strike

For their research, Dr. Houle and team recruited 95 people with migraine, with a total of 4,195 days of diary data. The participants experienced a migraine on 1,613 of these days (or 38.5 percent).

The team designed a model that collated data regarding the frequency of stressful events and their perceived intensity. Across the entire study, participants reported low to moderate stress. However, stress was more likely to be greater in the days leading up to a headache.

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“This study demonstrates that it is quite possible to forecast the occurrence of a headache attack within an individual headache sufferer.”

Tim Houle, Ph.D.

Fine-tuning required

Although treatment for migraine is still far from perfect, being able to predict when an attack might come means that they can be treated preemptively. Taking drugs before the event occurs can increase the chance that the migraine will be stopped in its tracks before it develops and becomes debilitating.

Dr. Houle and his team are eager to carry out more work to refine their model, saying, “The model we developed in this study is a very good start to helping people forecast the chances they will experience a headache attack, but work is needed to make the prediction models more accurate before they will be of widespread clinical use.”

There will therefore be a wait until migraine prediction models are able to be used by the general population, but inroads have been made. Because migraine affects so many U.S. individuals, any breakthrough has the potential to improve millions of lives.

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Read more on: migraines


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