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Preventing Migraine Can Improve Comorbid Conditions, Too

Migraine symptoms can be debilitating. A throbbing head, nausea, and hypersensitivity to light and sound can all interfere with patients’ daily lives. The symptoms can also challenge patients’ ability to care for other illnesses or conditions at the same time. 

Migraine often co-occurs with other conditions such as cardiovascular disease, anxiety and depression, which may exacerbate migraine symptoms, or which may be worsened by migraine. While the relationship between migraine and comorbidity might not be known, overlapping symptoms can worsen both conditions, making them more difficult to independently diagnose and manage. This may result in additional doctor visits or trips to the emergency room and increased absenteeism in the workplace. 

Recognizing the Value in Treating Migraine and Co-Occurring Conditions 

By contrast, a medication or treatment prescribed for one condition might improve two or more.  

Insurers and providers may consider what’s called “total health care utilization” when determining access or appropriateness of certain treatments. The metric captures the long-term effectiveness and costs of treatments. If one particular migraine treatment significantly reduces the severity of migraine symptoms and those for another condition, even a higher-priced option may ultimately save the system resources. Afterall, patients who have well-managed co-morbid conditions are healthier overall and more likely to need less total medical care. 

Among the most common comorbidities of migraine include psychiatric conditions like depression and panic disorders. In fact, people who experience 15 or more migraines per month are susceptible to depression. Antidepressants may be prescribed to address a mental health condition, but the medication can also reduce the severity of migraine.  

Similar benefits may be realized by treating common co-occurring medical conditions from heart disease to chronic fatigue to epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.  

Preventing Migraines Reduces Overall Burden 

While management and treatment are good, even greater benefits can be gained from preventing debilitating migraine.   

Preventive treatments that improve patients’ functioning and reduce the need for acute medications, according to research, can reduce migraine-specific costs. Savings aside, preventive medications keep the symptoms of migraine at bay, allowing people to live more productive and more fulfilling lives. And there is a tremendous benefit to being well enough to be active with family and engaged in the community.  

Additional research into the effects and treatment of co-occurring conditions continues. In the meantime, providers and payers should lean into approaches and treatments that reduce the overall burden of migraine disease through prevention.