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COVID-19 Continues to Challenge People Living with Headache

The imminent end of the public health emergency is a sure sign that most people have adjusted to a new normal. For people living with headache or migraine, however, COVID-19 remains a current issue, deeply intrusive to their lives. 

Headache, COVID-19 and Long COVID Syndrome 

Headache can be among the first symptoms to present when someone contracts COVID-19. For the one in four patients who report headache during their illness, it can appear as a new intermittent or daily headache during their acute infection.  

But it can also start following a delay. One in five people with long COVID syndrome – defined as feeling symptoms for weeks, months or even years after infection – experience headache. Around 28% of the more than 100 million Americans who have had COVID-19 experienced long COVID. 

Worse for People with Pre-Existing Headache 

People who experience tension-type headaches pre-infection were found to have more intense and longer attacks following COVID.  

And those who experience migraine often see an increase in the frequency of attacks, sometimes up to 10 or 15 attacks per month. Two-thirds of migraine patients in one study reported increased severity after getting COVID-19.  

In short, COVID-19 can contribute to the chronification of migraine disease and headache disorders. Because COVID-19 is relatively new, there aren’t any long-term studies to guide treatment for those who are now experiencing worsened headache symptoms because of the novel virus.  

Staying current on COVID vaccines and boosters – to lessen the severity of the infection should one get it – is a mitigation strategy, though it’s not guaranteed. Even with the best prevention techniques, however, more knowledge is needed.  

Calls to Learn More 

Legislation sponsored during the previous Congress would support research into long COVID syndrome, particularly studies aimed at exploring the interaction of headache, migraine and COVID-19.  

Patients and advocates are also calling for more awareness and education. The Headache and Migraine Policy Forum is one of many advocacy organizations working to shine a light on the long-term impact of COVID-19 on people living with migraine and headache disorders and those who have developed headache as a symptom of long COVID. To learn more, attend “Long COVID and Headache Disorder: A Policy Panel Discussion” on Capitol Hill or join virtually. The event begins at 12 noon ET on February 14.

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