Complications of Chronic and High-Frequency Episodic Migraines

Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, MS, DO on April 20, 2024
4 min read

If you get migraines at least a third of the month or even every day, you may already know the many ways that your frequent headaches can affect your life.

Whether you have high-frequency episodic migraine (10-14 headache days a month) or chronic migraine (15 or more per month), the number and the intensity of your migraines can pose challenges that you may not face with occasional migraine attacks.

Research shows that high-frequency episodic migraine can sometimes become chronic. And chronic migraine attacks also tend to last longer. You might also have:

  • Severe headache
  • Pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Migraine-triggered seizures
  • Stroke (migrainous infarction)
  • Migraine with aura that lasts 30-60 minutes

You may have more days in a month with migraines than not.

One European study on chronic and high-frequency episodic migraine reported that nearly 1 in 5 men and 1 in 3 women lost more than 10 days of activity over a 3-month period due to pain. The same study found that both women and men missed at least 1 workday a month due to severe migraine.

For children, frequent migraine attacks can keep them out of classrooms. That can hurt them academically and prevent them from taking part in school activities.

According to a large U.S. survey, half the people who have migraine report missing 1 or more days of family time because of it. Chronic migraine symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and fatigue may make it harder for you to accept social invitations. Over time, this may strain your relationships with family and friends.

Managing the physical symptoms of frequent migraines can affect you in other ways. You might face stigma at home or especially at work because of absences, lost productivity, or lack of sociability. That in turn can affect you emotionally and mentally.

Chronic and frequent migraine attacks can affect your pocket, too. Direct health care costs like doctor visits, treatments, medications, and medical tests may be ongoing. According to research, in the U.S., the direct costs of migraine on people and society exceeds $9.2 billion. One study found that medical costs for chronic migraine is around two to four times higher than it is for people with episodic migraine.

Meanwhile, indirect costs like time and productivity lost may make it hard to sustain the demands of your day-to-day life.

The price of managing migraine can vary from person to person, but between direct and indirect costs, the bills can quickly add up. This may cause stress and affect you and your family's financial well-being in the long run.

If your migraine attacks are hindering your day-to-day life, talk to your doctor right away. They may ask you to fill out the Migraine Disability Assessment (MIDAS) questionnaire. The survey consists of a few questions about your migraine attacks over the last 3 months. If your score is six or higher, your doctor may talk with you about a treatment plan to help you manage your symptoms.

A strong circle of loved ones and health professionals can help you get more out of life with chronic and frequent migraines.

To get the right help to manage your migraine days, you can:

Talk to family and friends. Confide in your closest friends and family about your symptoms, triggers, and any difficulties you may face during headache days. Ask for help with routine tasks and obligations if your chronic migraine keeps you from doing necessary things around the house or at work. Friends and family members can help lighten your workload and lend support.

Reach out and connect. On bad migraine days, it may be tempting to stay in a dark room. But as long as your health allows, try to engage with others, whether that means calling to chat with a friend or running errands. Healthy interactions can help you feel less isolated and may help distract you from your migraine pain. Just take care not to overdo it. It’s important to find a balance that works for you.

Find a headache specialist. Find a neurologist to talk about any concerns you may have and get on a treatment plan that works for you. If you’re unhappy with your doctor, switch to someone who works well with you and you feel comfortable with.

Join a support group. Other people who live with chronic migraine can give you the space to safely share your feelings, exchange advice and tips, and a chance to connect. You can find groups that meet online or in person.