Migraineurs are counting the cost of the pandemic

Sudden lifestyle changes triggered by the COVID-19 outbreak have caused more frequent and severe seizures in migraineurs.

However, researchers have also identified a number of factors associated with decreased headache incidence, including less alcohol and processed or fast food and increased exercise levels.

As a result, Migraines and Headache Australia is encouraging sufferers this month to commit to small but simple daily routine care to help manage their condition.

The campaign is backed by the makers of the exercise drink, Hydralyte, and aims to promote steps like limiting screen time and increasing hydration alongside clinical treatment for symptom relief.

The Commit to Care initiative stems from data suggesting that COVID-related disruptions to daily rituals have been largely harmful to Australians suffering from migraines.

Research led by Sydney neurologist Bronwyn Jenkins, first published Sunday, found that nearly 49 percent of the 711 patients surveyed in June and July last year had spikes in migraine incidence when the COVID restrictions began

About 41 percent reported the attacks were more severe and 42 percent reported their effects increased.

However, participants in the Royal North Shore Hospital study also identified a number of lifestyle factors that helped reduce the frequency of episodes during the pandemic.

These included better rest (52 percent), less anxiety or worry (46 percent), and more exercise (33 percent).

GP Ginni Mansberg said that although self-care routines vary in effectiveness, they can be a great addition to clinical treatment.

“Often the key to treating migraines is learning how certain factors can trigger seizures and what steps can be taken to prevent them,” said Dr. Mansberg.

“A self-care routine, along with a treatment plan informed by your doctor, can go a long way in addressing many triggers that patients can actually control.”

Recent data collected by Migraine Buddy medical tracking app showed that episode triggers also included sleep deprivation, changing weather, skipped meals, and caffeine consumption.

The mother of three, Sarah Orell, suffered from migraines during her first pregnancy in 2019. She was diagnosed with intracranial hypertension, a condition that causes increased pressure in the brain.

The 36-year-old compares her seizures to a concussion. She experiences loss of vision, palpitations, and pain so severe that she often becomes bedridden.

Following brain surgery in 2020 and again last year, Sarah was only given short periods of remission and continues to experience daily episodes averaging six hours.

She said it was important for her to manage her condition in order to enjoy the time with her children and to live as “normally” as possible.

“A lot of my triggers are things that I can’t control, like weather and environmental triggers, so it is imperative that I control the triggers through self-care,” she said.

“At first it was the stress of the pandemic that really affected me, as well as the major disruption in my daily routine. Having the children at home all the time while we also work from home is a really tricky balancing act.”

Migraine Awareness Week runs from September 20th to September 24th. For more information, register at www.headacheaustralia.org.au