Home General Info & Awareness 15 Surprising Facts About Migraines & Their Prevalence

15 Surprising Facts About Migraines & Their Prevalence

by InvisiblyMe
A close-up head and shoulders photo of a woman by a window with her hand up to her head. We see her silhouetted against the brighter sky outside. The post title is overlaid on the photo.

Headaches and migraines are common throughout the world, with many people experiencing one or both to some degree during their lifetime. The latter, migraine, is very different as this condition is far more than ‘just’ a headache.

There are different types of migraine and they may be experienced rarely or frequently (chronic migraine). Migraines can be severely debilitating, rendering the individual almost or entirely unable to continue their day to day activities during an attack. These episodes may last an hour or several hours, and with chronic migraines, there may be three or more days a week in which they’re experienced. Some people also experience migraine ‘postdrome’, with other symptoms such as nausea and fatigue persevering for hours after the migraine itself has gone. 

My Migraine Experience

In recent years, ever since my 2015 surgery that sent my health downhill, I’ve experienced chronic migraines, with attacks on average 5 days a week. The migraines themselves involve severe eye pain first and foremost, visual aura, sometimes tinnitus, pressure in the head and nausea, plus postdrome after many attacks. I’ve also had cluster headaches (very unpleasant) and an episode recently that was too strange to easily explain.

It appears my migraines may be the result of widespread inflammation, caused by an autoimmune foreign body response to a surgical implant.

I don’t think I could cope without the use of prescription Sumatriptan. I’m also in the early stages of trialling Amitriptyline for nerve damage-related issues; this drug is also used for migraine prophylaxis, though whether it can minimally reduce the frequency of my migraines is yet to be seen. The time lost from migraines is significant and it has a knock-on effect to mental health. 

Headache & Migraine Awareness Month : June 2020

June is Migraine Awareness Month, which is a great opportunity to share our experiences and bring light to this incredibly debilitating condition. 

Here are 15 surprising facts about migraines and their prevalence. 

1.  Migraine is a debilitating neurological disease that’s thought to affect around 1 billion people worldwide to some degree 

2.  The term migraine originates from the Greek ‘hemicrania’, translating as ‘half the skull’ (imikrania, ημικρανία). Hippocrates detailed the symptoms of migraines in 400 BC and the Greek term was employed by a Greek physician.

3.  Migraine is the 3rd most common illness worldwide, affecting more people than epilepsy, asthma and diabetes combined.

4.  Migraines can affect anyone of any age, including children, though they often begin during puberty and predominantly affect those between 35 and 45 years of age.

5.  There’s a gender imbalance, with estimates suggesting migraine affects 3 times more women than men.

6.  Studies suggest there are 3,000 migraine occurrences for every million people in the population, equating to more than 190,000 individual migraine attacks in the UK each day. 

7.  Chronic migraine is estimated to affect around 2% of the world’s population.

8.  Other mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are considerably more common among migraineurs than the healthy population. 

9.  It wasn’t until 1988 that headaches and migraines were first classified by the International Headache Society in detail. The diagnostic criteria in the 2013 edition, the IHCD-3 (the International Classification of Headache Disorders 3rd ed), is referred to globally by many clinicians and the WHO.

10.  The greatest advance in migraine treatment in the latter 20th Century (1990s) was with the emergence of triptans; the first medication, Sumatriptan, was developed in Stevenage in the UK. 

11. Migraine is considered to be the 7th most debilitating of all diseases, resulting is an average of 2.9 lost years of life from disability. Among neurological disorders, it’s the foremost cause of disability. 

12.  Research estimates that 25 million work or school days are lost each year as a result of migraines. 

13.  The financial impact of migraine is considerable, with absenteeism thought to cost around £2.25 billion each year within the UK and with a cost of £150 million to the NHS each year on doctor visits and medications. 

14.  The World Health Organisation classes severe migraine among the most debilitating illnesses on par with the likes of active psychosis, quadriplegia and dementia. 

15.  Despite its prevalence and impact, migraine research is the least publicly funded of all neurological illnesses comparative to its economic effect. 

Related post :

7 Migraines & Headache Helpers

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Do you suffer with migraines? Do any of these stats and facts surprise you?

Caz  ♥

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Charlie June 21, 2020 - 3:39 pm

A very interesting post, Caz, I know some people who have suffered from Migraines and so sorry to hear you get them they’re very debilitating. I hope the medication works ????

InvisiblyMe June 21, 2020 - 4:45 pm

I’m lucky in having Sumatriptan generally work for migraines, but I’m getting more migraines than I have medication which makes me grumpy. I’m sorry you know folks that get these horrible things, too. They really are very debilitating. Thanks for the comment, Charlie, it’s much appreciated! I hope the week ahead is kind to you ????

Ashley June 21, 2020 - 4:59 pm

It’s too bad there’s not a triptan version of the birth control implant. I only started having migraines in the last couple of years, and I can’t even imagine having to deal with them as often as you do. xo

InvisiblyMe June 22, 2020 - 3:39 pm

Wouldn’t that be a good idea, something convenient but effective and accessible to all. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with migraines, too. It’s not fun at all.xx

Eliza June 21, 2020 - 6:24 pm

I didn’t actually know this.
I’ve a friend who has chronic migraines, most my.other friends who have migraines it’s thankfully only infrequently.
I hope this new drug helps you….
Sending Sunday sunshine and sparkles…

InvisiblyMe June 22, 2020 - 3:41 pm

I’m sorry for all your friends with their migraines, whether chronic or infrequent. They’re awful to deal with and sadly a lot of the time it seems individuals never have any underlying cause identified, nor can they find any triggers to avoid. Thank you for sharing this, Eliza. I hope it’s a bright week for you ahead ???? xx

carol hannah June 21, 2020 - 6:35 pm

Wow, so many interesting facts about migraines. I’d only ever had one once on Christmas day when I was about 15 and it was horrendous – it spoiled my day!

I never had another one until I got this rare neurological disorder called Transverse Myelitis. Now I get what’s called Aural migraines – it’s like a huge white spot (like some of the peppermint sweets lol) in front of my eyes and all I can see is from out of two tiny corners in each eye. I cannot see anything other than that and I don’t get headaches lol.

Crikey, I get all the weird disorders 🙁

InvisiblyMe June 22, 2020 - 3:51 pm

Aw, I feel bad for 15 year old you – that’s the thing with migraines, they can be unpredictable and a total pain in the bum with the worst timing! I think when you get really used to something, like chronic migraines, it’s hard to imagine life without them. TM and aural migraines cannot be easy to deal with at all. Some of what you experience is what I get, with the aura and the white spot (sometimes black ‘floaters’ in vision). Is there anything you can take for your migraines separate from TM, like triptans? I really hope so, and I hope you can at least have this week migraine-free! Thank you for sharing some of your experience here lovely xx

Rachael Emma Tomlinson June 21, 2020 - 9:35 pm

I only got diagnosed with migraines when I got my MS diagnosis, It seems I have had them for years, I get them with Aura and they are getting worse and lasting longer as I get older, they also increase with MS fatigue, so win win here 🙂 xx

InvisiblyMe June 22, 2020 - 4:16 pm

Oh Rachael, I’m sorry you get these horrible things too. I’ve found mine continually getting worse as well, and you don’t need that when your MS fatigue is also getting more significant. Do you have anything you can take, like triptans? I hope so in order for you to get some relief as they really are incredibly debilitating. Sending love xx

Marie Clancy June 21, 2020 - 10:54 pm

Lots of interesting facts Caz! I went through a bad patch years ago and glad to have left that patch behind. I find motilium help settle my tummy and take the edge off headaches before they turn to migraine. Also giving up dairy yogurts helped. Xx

InvisiblyMe June 22, 2020 - 4:25 pm

I’m glad it sounds like the migraines have eased since the bad patch, Marie. It’s interesting to hear the thins that have helped you, too. I hadn’t thought of motilium but I get significant nausea sometimes, especially with the current head pressure I seem to keep getting. With the dairy yoghurts, do you think there’s a degree of lactose intolerance there for you?xx

Despite Pain June 22, 2020 - 11:58 am

I’ve lived with migraines since I was about 12 or 13 and they became chronic until I went through the menopause (early, thankfully) I had a visual aura and the headache went on for days at a time, then came the postdrome migraine. I maybe had a day or two of being headache free when it started over again. I still get them occasionally, but not frequently and they don’t last as long. I have sympathy for anyone living with chronic migraines.

InvisiblyMe June 22, 2020 - 4:31 pm

What an awful, awful time of it you’ve had, Liz. I start getting frustrated with chronic migraines and think of what you’ve been through and suddenly mine don’t seem so bad! I know we shouldn’t compare our experience to that of others, but it’s a good point to be aware of just how different the experience can be for everyone. I’m still getting migraines on average 5 days a week, but I’m now also getting this head pressure issue, and I’ve no idea what on earth it is, ever since that episode a few weeks ago. The body can be utterly baffling sometimes. I’m glad your migraines have lessened somewhat compared to what they were, especially as TN itself is more than enough for you to deal with. Thank you for sharing some of your experience and I hope you can have a migraine-free week lovely.xx

luisa June 22, 2020 - 2:18 pm

So interesting
Thank you

InvisiblyMe June 22, 2020 - 4:53 pm

I’m glad you found it interesting. Thanks, Luisa ???? x

Laura Beth June 22, 2020 - 3:12 pm

This was such an informative post – Thank you! I have several friends that suffer from migraines. I think my boss at work also suffers. Thankfully, a couple of people have controlled it with medication and diet changes. Hugs!

InvisiblyMe June 22, 2020 - 4:55 pm

Migraines are surprisingly common to differing degrees. I’m sorry many of your friends suffer with them, but I’m glad some can get a little relief with medications and other means of self-management as they really can be very debilitating. Thank you for the comment lovely xx

Nisha June 22, 2020 - 3:38 pm

Interesting facts and sad that it is least funded of all .Hope this awareness will bring about some changes.

InvisiblyMe June 22, 2020 - 5:36 pm

It’s definitely bizarre to think of how prevalent and damaging migraines are yet they receive unfair attention in terms of funding and research, which obviously is less helpful to patients with less information and treatment being made available. Let’s hope change happens… Thanks, Nisha! xx

Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism June 22, 2020 - 4:14 pm

I couldn’t cope without my sumatriptan either. Interesting facts.

InvisiblyMe June 22, 2020 - 5:40 pm

It’s a godsend, isn’t it? Sadly we can’t use it as regularly as we may need but migraines can make us desperate for some relief from them. I hope you can have a migraine-free week, Rachel – fingers crossed! xx

Marly June 22, 2020 - 8:36 pm

This is a fantastic article. I wish more people understood migraines and how horrible they can be. It’s like I’ve been in your shoes the last few years. Between daily headaches and the migraines… it can put a major toll on your life. Thanks for sharing!

InvisiblyMe June 25, 2020 - 3:53 pm

I’m so sorry you know what it’s like, Marly. I’m glad you thought the article was good, I do think it’s important to acknowledge the extent of headaches & migraines, and the huge impact the latter can have on our lives. I really do hope you can get a little respite from them over the weekend ❣

Michelle June 23, 2020 - 1:25 pm

So sorry to hear you’re struggling with more frequent migraine, too. It puts me completely out of commission and has been so bad since I got COVID. I’m finally starting to see fewer headache days, but it took about 3 months and I still have to be really careful about what I do. Hugs. I hope you see a gradual decrease, too! Xx

InvisiblyMe June 25, 2020 - 3:57 pm

That’s awful, Mykie. I know there’s more research and findings suggestion coronavirus is both a respiratory and vascular virus, and many people have reported issues with their head during and after infection. I wonder if those that didn’t get migraines prior to the virus then got them, or if it’s more those that already get them that have found them becoming worse… I’m glad you’re seeing the frequency start to diminish, even if just a little. I hope it continues to reduce because you’re right, migraines put you totally out of commission and it’s a lot of life lost when you get them regularly. Sending hugs xx

Terri, Reclaiming HOPE June 23, 2020 - 5:40 pm

I’m so sorry to hear your migraines are more frequent Caz. Of all the things I’ve lived with over the years, I think migraines are the very worst. Unfortunately, almost everything they tried either didn’t help or caused awful side effects. I finally found a combination of over-the-counter meds (and ice packs) that tamp down the pain enough for me not to feel like I’m going to die. Like Liz, mine have settled down some since menopause, so I do count that as a blessing. I really hope your medications will prove helpful in getting your migraines at least somewhat under control. Thank you for bringing awareness to what migraines are and the suffering they can cause.

InvisiblyMe June 25, 2020 - 4:43 pm

I’m so sorry you’ve not found any medication to be effective or well-tolerated. I count myself very lucky that Sumatriptan typically works and without too many knock-on issues. Unfortunately it can’t be prescribed or used regularly enough to cover all my migraines, but I honestly don’t think I could manage without it. I also use a Therapearl freezer eye mask (usually on my head or over the one eye where the pain is), so like your ice packs. I really do feel for you having to use just ice and OTC meds. I’m glad it can make them a little more bearable but it seems to very unfair. I’m glad there’s a little less for you since menopause but still, even one migraine once a month is bad enough. Thank you for sharing some of your experience, Terri. I really do hope you can have a peaceful, migraine-free end to your week xx

Darnell June 23, 2020 - 5:29 pm

I knew migraines were bad, but I had no idea just how bad. I’m glad you’ve taken advantage of Awareness month to tell people like me how debilitating the condition is. It could affect children too? I know its a small percentage but even 1 child is too many. It’s unfair that you have to deal with migraines along with other chronic problems. Good days or bad, you handle obstacles better than most, certainly me Caz!!!

InvisiblyMe June 25, 2020 - 4:19 pm

You’re right, one child is one too many. I struggle to keep my cool with getting so many of these as it’s incredibly frustrating and debilitating, so my heart hurts thinking of it affecting a child. While I may appear to cope well, I’m not sure I always do! Thanks for the great comment, Darnell, it’s much appreciated ♥

Katy June 23, 2020 - 5:40 pm

Oh Good Lord, Caz!!! I am SOOO very sorry. My boyfriend’s sister, who is 65, experienced numerous horrible migraines a week for most of her life. She told me about a month ago that she started a treatment that has reduced them to 2 a month so far. She feels like a new person. I know You are starting a treatment and also that You have many other things going on, so I imagine it’s tricky. But if You should find Yourself still trying to figure something out, I’d be more than happy to ask her what she’s doing. Sending You lots of Love and prayers that they stop!!! ❤️

InvisiblyMe June 25, 2020 - 4:53 pm

Aww, I really do feel for your boyfriend’s sister. So she’s had a few a week, every week since she was younger? That’s awful, poor lady. I feel bad if I moan about mine now knowing how many years she’s put up with them. Is the new treatment one of the injections, like Aimovig? It’s amazing to have the frequency cut to two p/month given how many she normally has. Two a month is bad enough. Thank you for the kind offer to ask her. I would be interested in what she’s using, though I’d anticipate/guess it’s like Aimovig (which sadly, frustratingly, was recently rejected by the NHS) so I’m not sure whether we’ll be getting any new treatments here now. I really, really do hope that medication continues to help her, fingers crossed! Thank you for the lovely comment, it’s much appreciated. I hope you have a good end to your week ♥ xx

Carolyn Page June 23, 2020 - 8:07 pm

Migraines are terrible!
Caz, I occasionally get ‘light created migraines’; especially when there are various shades of light such as in a shopping centre. Fortunately, I don’t suffer enormous pain with them, but do suffer pressure in the head, my thinking becomes dulled with eye soreness and blind spots in vision that prevent me driving a car or almost anything really. At their worst I can become almost without sight at all. Yuk – they are terrible! Thankfully, I suffer only about once a month or every other month. Autumn seems to be the worst time!
So sorry that you suffer from these debilitating energies. Hopefully, you’ll find the right medication. I truly do appreciate how horrible they can be.

InvisiblyMe June 25, 2020 - 5:05 pm

Light sensitivity-related migraines aren’t fun at all; I’m sorry you have that issue, too. I’m lucky in that I don’t constantly have issues with light or technology use, but I do sometimes, particularly before/after migraines. The effect on vision with any sort of migraine can be dangerous, as you say with it preventing you from safely driving or doing much of anything else. To have this ‘only’ once a month or so really is bad enough, Carolyn. It’s awful, though I am of course glad you don’t get them any more regularly than you do. Do you think they’ve become worse/more regular over time, or have they got less perhaps? I hope there are a few things you can use to make things a little more bearable, whether that’s medication, sunglasses or ice packs. Thank you for sharing some of your experience ???? xx

Nat June 24, 2020 - 4:57 pm

I have a bad migraine once in a while from poor quality of sleep and it feels like death itself. I can’t imagine having chronic migraines on a weekly or daily basis though, that would leave me in a wreck!

InvisiblyMe June 25, 2020 - 5:36 pm

It leaves me in a wreck, too, and I’m fortunate enough to have prescription meds for a proportion of my migraines. I sorry you get them occasionally; once is bad enough, they really are vile. I hope you can look at ways to improve your sleep a little so hopefully you don’t get any/many in future, fingers crossed ???? xx

Lucy June 25, 2020 - 2:18 pm

Well done with building awareness with this post. Headaches are bad enough but migraines are the worst. I had no idea just how prevalent they are or how little there is with treatments and research. It seems u fair when they can take away so much of an individual’a life With the time lost as you say.

InvisiblyMe June 25, 2020 - 5:38 pm

I’m glad you liked the post and that it could tell you something new about migraines and their prevalence. The impact on life, mental and physical, shouldn’t be underestimated. Thanks for the comment, Lucy ????

James Viscosi June 28, 2020 - 5:02 pm

I used to get migraines quite often from when I was a teenager up until I was in maybe my mid to late 30s, at which point they became less frequent. At this point I haven’t had one in probably ten years. When I used to get them I would have to go lie down with like a cold washcloth on my face, trying not to throw up until they went away. (My wife would tell me I should just go throw up, I would feel better, which was probably true but throwing up is no fun either …)

InvisiblyMe June 29, 2020 - 3:32 pm

It’s interesting how it works for some people with migraine frequency, increasing up until a point where the curve starts to go back downhill again. You’re right, throwing up isn’t fun. I used to have that when I had occasional migraines, where’d I’d vomit and feel better. Now I could vomit all day and the migraine will still be there. It’s fantastic you’ve not had one in around 10 years – here’s to the next decade migraine-free for you! xx

Smitha June 28, 2020 - 8:17 pm

Interesting facts! Lots to know

InvisiblyMe June 29, 2020 - 3:45 pm

I hope it’s told you something new, they’re pretty eye-opening facts even for me as a migraineur. Thanks for the comment lovely xx

Aadit July 9, 2020 - 11:14 am

Really interesting stuff! I really hope your migraines get better.❤️❤️


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