Migraine is the third most common disease in the world with an estimated global prevalence of 14.7% (around 1 in 7 people).
In Singapore, the prevalence of migraine is 9.3%.
Chronic migraine affects approximately 2% of the world population.
Migraine affects three-times as many women as men, with this higher rate being most likely hormonally-driven.
More than three quarters of migraineurs experience at least one attack each month, and more than half experience severe impairment during attacks.
Migraine often starts at puberty and most affects those aged between 35 and 45 years, but it can trouble much younger people including children.
Burden – impact and disability
Migraine is ranked globally as the 7th most disabling disease among all diseases (responsible for 2.9% of all years of life lost to disability/YLDs) and the leading cause of disability among all neurological disorders.
The estimated proportion of time spent with migraine (i.e. experiencing an attack) during an average person’s life is 5.3%.
Severe migraine attacks are classified by the World Health Organization as among the most disabling illnesses, comparable to dementia, quadriplegia and active psychosis.
Migraine is a disorder that almost certainly has a genetic basis.
An older theory on the causation of migraine included that migraine is primarily a disease of the blood vessels. It is now accepted that migraine is not related to any vascular pathology and brain mechanisms are more likely involved in the development of migraine attacks.
Diagnosis and management
Migraine remains undiagnosed and undertreated in at least 50% of patients, and less than 50% of migraine patients consult a physician.
The greatest single advance in migraine management in the last half of the 20th century was the triptan class of drugs, which emerged in the 1990s. The first drug under this class to be developed was sumatriptan.
Less than 50% of migraine patients are satisfied with their current treatment. The majority self-medicate using non-prescription (over-the-counter) medication and do not seek medical help.
The word migraine derives from the Greek word ‘hemicrania’ (imikrania; ημικρανία) which means ‘half the skull’. In 400 BC Hippocrates described in detail the occurrence of migraine attacks, including the visual disturbances during migraine aura and the relief from vomiting.