The stress and anxiety brought by the COVID-19 pandemic worsens migraine attacks of those who suffer from the condition, experts reveal.
Dr. Corina Maria Socorro A. Macalintal, consultant neurologist at Asian Hospital and Medical Center, said during “TAMA NA: Iwas Migraine, New Normal” that migraine sufferers may grow anxious due to the overlap of migraine and coronavirus disease symptoms.
Around 12 million Filipinos suffer from migraine, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016. The Speak Your Migraine PH online survey conducted by Novartis among Filipino migraine sufferers revealed that stress and anxiety can trigger migraine attacks.
“Migraine attacks may be more common these days because of stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic,” said Dr. Macalintal during the virtual media briefing organized by Novartis Healthcare Philippines.
Since headache may be a manifestation of COVID-19, Dr. Macalintal emphasized, “It is important for migraine patients to consult a neurologist as migraine management is individualized, depending on the patient’s other health concerns and different reactions to medications.”
Migraine is a type of neurological disorder that involves recurrent attacks of moderate to severe head pain that is typically throbbing, often on one side of the head and associated with nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.
“It’s very difficult to be a migraine sufferer. My worst migraine attacks last three days,” shared TV host and model Bianca Gonzalez who was diagnosed with migraine when she was a child.
“Stress, lack of sleep, strong odors, and certain foods are some of the common triggers of migraine. To help manage migraine, patients are encouraged to identify their triggers and try to avoid them,” said Dr. Macalintal.
Gonzalez related, “Whenever I had to host shows and events, there were bright lights and loud sounds which are all migraine triggers. I have to take a strong medicine and take a nap backstage before show time, so I could ease my migraine and be able to perform my role as host.”
Thus Dr. Macalintal advised, “Migraine patients and their neurologists should discuss treatment goals, which should not be limited to stopping the headache attack but to prevent recurrence. Newer treatment options on preventive management address recurrence and other limitations of oral medications.”
Meanwhile, Dr. Rosalina Espiritu-Picar, president of the Philippine Neurological Association (PNA), encourages migraine patients “who are stable and do not require acute emergency care to utilize telemedicine tools so that they can stay connected with their doctors.”
To find a neurologist anywhere in the country and for a list of neurologists accepting telemedicine consultations, patients are encouraged to visit www.philippineneurologicalassociation.comor call the trunk line of the hospital nearest them to ask for a neurologist. Telemedicine tools are a practical alternative to enable doctor-patient interaction while maintaining social distancing and complying with community quarantine protocols.
Gonzalez seconded, urging those who suffer terrible headaches and suspect migraine to consult a doctor. “You can consult a doctor online during this community quarantine. Your doctor will determine the right treatment for you.”
In line with its commitment to redefining migraine care, Novartis has developed erenumab, the first of its kind to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, EMA, Swissmedic, and Australian TGA for the prevention of migraine.
In the Philippines, erenumab is approved for the prevention of migraine in adults.
“Erenumab specifically targets the calcitonin gene-related peptide or CGRP receptor, which plays a key role in the pathophysiology of migraine. It has been shown to safely and effectively reduce migraine frequency, allowing patients to have more migraine-free days. This innovative anti-migraine medicine is self-administered once monthly via a pre-filled syringe,” said Dr. Giovell Barangan, chief scientific officer of Novartis Healthcare Philippines.
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