Canadians suffered more migraines during the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey shows - National

Toronto’s Maya Carvalho, who has lived with chronic migraine pain for the past 15 years, says the COVID-19 pandemic has provided some insight into what migraineurs suffer on a regular basis.

“If you have a chronic disease that is this debilitating, you are already constrained that way,” Carvalho, 50, said of the lockdown measures put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19.

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“They are already socially isolated … they have had to withdraw from a lot of their social activities because they are in pain or have migraine symptoms that don’t allow them to do what they want.”

Carvalho, who suffers from at least 20 migraines every month, says her seizures are mainly triggered by cool air flowing over her face. She said the pounding pain on the right side of her head can last for up to nine days.

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“It’s incredibly debilitating when I’m in the middle of an intense attack. I literally can’t get my head off a pillow. “

Maya Carvalho founded the Canadian Migraine Society on June 1, 2021

Maya Carvalho founded the Canadian Migraine Society on June 1, 2021.

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A recent survey by Leger for pharmaceutical company Allergan found that nearly half of Canada’s migraine sufferers had more migraines amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey was conducted online earlier this month and included a total of 3,056 Canadians. Of the respondents, 366 said they were living with migraines and chronic migraines. The results were published on June 16.





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Migraines are a common neurological condition caused by activation of a mechanism deep in the brain that, according to the World Health Organization, results in the release of pain-causing inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head.

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It can cause a severe headache, usually on one side of the head. Migraine attacks can last for hours or days and are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise.

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Among respondents living with chronic migraines, four in ten say the pandemic affected or triggered their migraines.

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“The pandemic is affecting us in so many different ways and people with chronic illnesses are really suffering,” said Lisa Covens, vice president of communications and public affairs for Leger in Toronto.

A change in routine and added stress in many trying to balance work from home and looking after their children are likely to result in people experiencing more migraines, said Dr. Ian Finkelstein, medical director of the Toronto Headache and Pain Clinic.

“The pandemic has literally changed the way people live in the past two years.

“For migraineurs, especially chronic migraineurs, they walk this very fine line, and when they are thrown off … this balancing act that they are on, their headaches get worse.”

Uncertainty from the pandemic, a decrease in physical activity and dehydration from wearing face masks throughout the day also contribute, he added.

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Access to migraine treatment.

Graphics courtesy of Allergan

Of those who said they had migraines, women were more than twice as likely to have migraines or chronic migraines than men, the survey found.

“We’re definitely seeing more migraines in women than men, no doubt about it,” said Finkelstein.

Although there is no clear evidence of the gender difference, Finkelstein said hormonal influences are hypothesized in women who suffer from migraines during their menstruation.

People under the age of 35 and people with children aged 18 or younger in the household also reported having migraines significantly more often.

According to the survey, more than a third of Canadians face difficulties getting treatment for migraines and finding a specialist in their condition.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated several health challenges due to lockdown measures and restrictions on health services to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

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During the first wave of the pandemic, emergency medical visits across the country fell by 50 percent, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

Many are hesitant about personal doctor appointments because of fear of contracting COVID-19, Covens said.

“We have seen it in the entire healthcare system in general that during the pandemic people are putting their health on the back burner, that they don’t want to go to a medical clinic, they don’t want to go to a hospital or a doctor’s office” she told Global News.





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Carvalho, the founder of the Canadian Migraine Society, is taking a monthly injection at home to manage her symptoms so that her treatment was not interrupted by the pandemic.

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However, she said that many of the members of her support group who needed botox, nerve blocks, or other interventions were unable to get medical attention due to the lockdown measures.

Finkelstein said treating migraines was a “huge problem” not only for patients but also for doctors.

This is because there aren’t many doctors in the country who specialize in treating migraines, and patients too often tend to suffer silently without looking for help, he said.

“Migraines and chronic migraines are clearly underdiagnosed and under-treated not only in Canada, but worldwide.”

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