A migraine is not just a bad headache—it is a chronic and often debilitating neurological disease that affects nearly 12% of the world’s population.1 An estimated 30 million Americans suffer from migraines. Symptoms typically include excruciatingly painful headaches, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. More than half of migraine patients report severe impairment or require bed rest during their episodic attacks. And unfortunately, it is an all too frequent occurrence; the average migraine patient experiences two to four episodes a month.2 Furthermore, women are nearly three times more likely to be affected than men.
The cost of this disease to society is astounding. Migraines are most common during a person’s highly productive years, between the ages of 15 and 55. The World Health Organization ranks migraine in the top 20 causes of disability.3 The financial burden in the UK is estimated at £5 billion per year4 while the National Headache Foundation estimates US costs at nearly $24 billion.5
The precise cause of migraine is not completely understood. However, migraines are often initiated by triggers, which may include specific foods, smells, moods, light patterns, hormonal alterations, alcohol or caffeine changes, sleep disturbances and other causes.
Migraine is believed to be a disorder in the area of the brain involved with sensory processing modulation6 that causes an abnormal or hyperexcitable response to normal sensory input or triggers. This creates an electrical storm, which, in turn, causes the migraine. Hyperexcitability of the occipital cortex neurons may also trigger cortical spreading depression (CSD), which is found in migraine with aura.7,8 About one-third of migraine sufferers experience these auras or visual disturbances prior to the onset of pain.
Migraines are often treated with medication. Current treatment options are effective for some, but studies have shown that about 70%9 of migraine patients are not satisfied with or cannot tolerate the side effects associated with medications. These patients are actively seeking new and better-tolerated treatment options.
1. Lipton RB, Bigal ME, Diamond M. Migraine prevalence, disease burden, and the need for preventive therapy. Neurology. 2007;68(5):343-349.
2. Lipton RB, Bigal ME. The epidemiology of migraine. Am J Med. 2005;118(suppl 1):3S-10S.
3. The World Health Report 2001 – Mental Health: New Understanding, New Hope. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO); 2001:27-28.
4. Headache Disorders – not respected, not resourced: A Report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Primary Headache Disorders (APPGPHD). London: House of Commons; 2010.
5. Hazard E, Munakata J, Bigal ME, Rupnow MFT, Lipton RB. The burden of migraine in the United States: current and emerging perspectives on disease management and economic analysis. Value Health. 2009;12(1):55-64.
6. Goadsby PJ, Lipton RB, Ferrari MD. Migraine – current understanding and treatment. N Eng J Med. 2002;346(4):257-270.
7. Aurora SK, Ahmad BK, Welch KMA, Bhardhwaj P, Ramadan NM. Transcranial magnetic stimulation confirms hyperexcitability of occipital cortex in migraine. Neurology. 1998;50(4):1111-1114.
8. Aurora SK, Cao Y, Bowyer SM, Welch KMA. The occipital cortex is hyperexcitable in migraine: experimental evidence. Headache. 1999;39(7):469-476.
9. Lipton RB, Stewart WF. Acute migraine therapy: do doctors understand what patients with migraine want from therapy? Headache. 1999;39(suppl 2):S20-26.