Research published ahead of print in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry reports that chronic migraine sufferers tend to be in poorer general health, less wealthy, and more depressed than those with episodic migraine.

Episodic migraine is a severe headache happening up to 14 days of the month. Chronic migraine is headache happening 15 or more days of the month. The findings are based on data of approximately 12,000 adults with episodic and chronic migraines.

All participants were already part of the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) study. This is a long term US population based study of 24,000 headache sufferers, which has included regular surveys since 2004.

The team of researchers examined data collected in the 2005 survey on socioeconomic circumstances and other health problems.

Findings indicated that those with chronic migraine had significantly lower levels of household income and were less likely to be working full time. In addition, they were almost twice more likely to have a job related disability than their peers with episodic migraine.

Moreover, they were twice as likely to be depressed, anxious, and experiencing chronic pain. Also, they were significantly more likely to have other serious health problems.

These health problems included asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity. In addition, they were about 40 percent more likely to have heart disease and angina and 70 percent more likely to have had a stroke.

The authors draw attention to the fact that chronic migraine "can be an especially disabling and burdensome condition."

Earlier research reveals that compared to episodic migraineurs, chronic migraineurs have a relatively high level of sick leave, reduced productivity, and poorer quality of family life.

In addition, it suggests that few are diagnosed correctly and that only around one in three are treated appropriately.

The authors write: "The differences unearthed between the two groups in the present study might reflect differences in biological risk factors and provide valuable clues as to how episodic migraine progresses to chronic migraine".

"Sociodemographic and comorbidity profiles of chronic migraine and episodic migraine sufferers"
Online First 2010;
D C Buse, A Manack, D Serrano, C Turkel, R B Lipton
doi 10.1136/jnnp.2009.192492
Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery and Psychiatry

Written by Stephanie Brunner (B.A.)