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Chronic Migraine

Women with headpain

Chronic migraine is a diagnosis given when you have at least 15 headache days per month, and 8 of those days are migraine days. So someone with chronic migraine has headache more than they do not. Around 400,000 Australians live with chronic migraine.

Technically you can have any of the types of migraine and chronic migraine, but as the diagnosis is based on headache days, those who do not experience headache are unlikely to be given this diagnosis. There is a great deal of debate in the migraine community about the terminology.

Most people begin their migraine journey with episodic migraine (less than 8 affected days), and transition first to high-frequency episodic migraine (8-15) days, before moving to chronic (more than 15 days). Transition to chronic migraine is associated with well-recognised, potentially treatable risk factors. Some examples of risk factors include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Other pain disorders
  • Obesity
  • Asthma
  • Snoring
  • Stressful life events
  • Head/Neck injury
  • Caffeine
  • Acute medication overuse
  • Persistent, frequent nausea

Another significant consideration is medication overuse headache, a secondary headache condition caused by using common and migraine medications too much, which is a common culprit in increasing headache days and worsening migraine. Around 2.5% of all people living with migraine will transition to chronic migraine each year.

If you are dealing with chronic migraine attacks, seeing a neurologist is important to rule out any other possible cause for your frequent attacks, and to find an appropriate preventative medication.

Read more about chronic migraine at The Migraine Trust or the American Migraine Foundation.