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You’re not imagining it, migraines really are worse during lockdown

by Shayna Sappington
08th Sep 2020

Since the start of the pandemic, migraine sufferers are experiencing more frequent and severe migraines 

Did you know that roughly half a million people in Ireland suffer from migraine?

It’s Migraine Awareness Week and the Migraine Association of Ireland (MAI) and Novartis Ireland have joined forces to see how exactly migraine sufferers have been affected during lockdown.

Their survey’s results showed that people have been experiencing more frequent and severe migraines since the start of the pandemic.

More severe and frequent migraines

The MAI survey was carried out online among 120 adults, between the ages of 18 and 65, living with migraine in Ireland.

Over half (58 per cent) of respondents said they were getting more frequent migraines, and 69 per cent of this group reported their symptoms of migraine had become more severe since the pandemic began. 

Only a small number (18 per cent) of participants said they had a decrease in the frequency of their migraines and only 13 per cent of respondents reported a decrease in the severity of their migraines.

Why migraine is worse 

While this worsening of migraine is alarming, Dr. Martin Ruttledge, a neurologist at Beaumont Hospital & Hermitage Medical Clinic, said it is expected.

“It is not unexpected, as we know that stress is a very common exacerbating factor in this condition, and it has been a very stressful period for everybody over the last four to five months with the Covid pandemic,” he explained.

“Migraine, especially the more chronic forms, can be a very disabling neurological disorder, and the worldwide uncertainty in recent months has only made the situation worse.” 

Of those who said their migraine had become more frequent, over four-fifths (84 per cent) said that this was due to stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Respondents reported changes to their routine (67 per cent), a lack of sleep (63 per cent) and increased screen time (60 per cent) as triggers for this increase as well.

The survey also found that of those experiencing more frequent migraines, over one-third were working from home, 21 per cent had increased working hours and 20 per cent were no longer working. 

Doctor appointments cancelled or postponed

Over half of the participants said they had encountered issues when scheduling doctor appointments for their migraine.

Their appointments had been either cancelled or postponed since the start of the pandemic. 

Only 41 per cent of respondents had a virtual health-related consultation since the pandemic began, and most rated these consultations as either ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.

MAI CEO Patrick Little said: “Our survey shows that the pandemic is proving to be a stressful time for migraine sufferers, with respondents reporting a sharp increase in the frequency and severity of migraines. 

“We are particularly concerned that over four-fifths of those surveyed said that COVID-related stress is causing them to suffer from more frequent migraines, especially at a time when some appointments with healthcare professionals were being postponed.”

Where to seek help

Those suffering from migraine should seek advice from their primary care doctors and other healthcare professionals if they are struggling. 

“Please contact your GP to talk through your concerns and avail of an online consultation if one is provided, as an increase in frequency or severity of migraines should not be ignored,” said Little.

“The Migraine Association of Ireland is here to support people with migraine and other headache disorders, and their carers and families.”

You can contact MAI by emailing [email protected] or calling 1850 200 378 if you have any questions or need someone to talk to.


Read more: Planning an autumn staycation? 12 ways to manage a migraine while travelling

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