Chronic Migraine: How to Deal with Comorbidities [Video]

  • The American Migraine Foundation shares that chronic migraine usually co-exists with other conditions like anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and sleep disorders.
  • Chronic migraine with its comorbidities should be treated individually.
  • Managing chronic migraine and its comorbidities include getting a correct diagnosis and treatment plan and managing your lifestyle.

Many illnesses have comorbidities. Comorbidity is a term to denote the relationship of two different diseases experienced by the same person at the same time. Among these illnesses, migraine is listed by the American Migraine Foundation as one condition that can have many co-existing conditions.

This can include:

1. Pain Disorders

Fibromyalgia is a pain in the musculoskeletal system accompanied by fatigue and memory, mood, and sleep problems. In a review study published in the Frontiers in Neurology Journal, fibromyalgia has been linked to migraine. Data also shows that those with fibromyalgia have a higher incidence of experiencing insomnia and irritable bowel syndrome.

2. Sleep Disorders

In the Journal Headache of July 2018, researchers discussed that frequent and severe migraine could co-exist with several sleep disorders like insomnia, circadian rhythm disorders, obstructive sleep apnea, snoring, and restless legs.   

3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal tract disorder characterized by chronic abdominal pain and discomfort. Migraine and IBS both have similar risk factors, and so they have a high chance of co-existing together. According to one study published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology, the conditions can exist because of dysfunction in the smooth muscles.

4. Anxiety and Depression

Among the different conditions that overlap with migraine, anxiety, and depression have the highest incidence. In the paper of Frontiers in Neurology, it was also confirmed that psychological conditions like depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and having suicidal thoughts frequently co-exist with migraine.

When you experience migraines with overlapping conditions, experts recommend treating each condition, not only the migraine.

Here are some ways to manage it:

  • Get diagnosed accurately.

The first thing you should do is get the correct diagnosis from a physician, whether you have one or all of migraines’ comorbidities. Your doctor can evaluate your health history, perform a physical exam and conduct some tests to make an accurate diagnosis.  

  • Ask for a comprehensive treatment plan.

After the diagnosis, your doctor can advise the best treatment plan in managing your migraine along with its comorbidities. Ask for other options like preventive or treatment medications that will work best for you. 

  • Be consistent with your lifestyle.

According to Robert Cowan, professor of neurology and chief of the headache medicine division at Stanford University in California, migraines do not like changes, so it is important to stick to your lifestyle. You should eat at the same time, maintain a regular sleep schedule, exercise regularly, and avoid changes. This way, the brain will know that everything is okay and according to the pattern.

  • Follow a healthy diet.

Dr. Meredith Barad, a board-certified neurologist at Stanford University in California, explains that caffeine,  food additives like MSG and nitrites, and sugar can trigger migraines.   

Source: Everyday Health