Living With Migraine: Its Impact on Your Quality of Life

Living with migraines can be challenging. Unpredictable, sudden attacks of pain and other symptoms can limit daily activities and get in the way of work. Medicines can be expensive, adding a drain to the family budget. Your social life may suffer if friends and family do not understand how painful and draining migraines can be.

Migraine and quality of life

How migraines impact quality of life can change over the course of a person’s life. Children and teens may miss school and fun activities due to the attacks. Adults report their migraines led to relationship problems with romantic partners and family.1

As you can imagine, the longer someone’s migraine lasts and the more often they have attacks, the worse their quality of life.2

Impact on daily life

One study looked at more than 11,000 people worldwide living with migraine. Migraine interfered with their daily lives in many ways, including:3

  • 3 out of 4 reported spending time in the dark or in isolation for an average of 19 hours a month
  • More than 8 out of 10 said they felt helpful, depressed, or misunderstood
  • 8 out of 10 had problems sleeping because of their headaches
  • Nearly 9 out of 10 said migraines impacted their professional and private lives
  • Half feared their next attack

Hormonal changes

Pregnancy can be a joyful time for expectant parents. However, people who have migraines may face challenges balancing their own need for treatment with what is safe for their baby.

Pregnancy

One study looked at the treatment records of a group of pregnant women who went to the emergency room for a severe migraine attack. While most were given drugs considered safe to take during pregnancy, several acute treatments with low risk to the baby were underused.4

Labor and delivery

Having migraines can also make labor and delivery harder to manage. Some drugs used during delivery, dehydration, and muscle strain may all trigger a migraine. Often, this can be managed by working with your obstetrician ahead of time to plan a course of action should a migraine occur.1

Pre-pregnancy

Even before pregancy, migraines can impact a couple's family planning. Infertility treatments that trigger ovulation can cause more migraines in those for whom hormonal changes are a trigger. Some women also report choosing to delay or not have children because of their migraines.1

Postpartum

In the weeks after delivery, most people find their migraines return to whatever was normal for them before they became pregnant.

Menopause

The menopausal years of ages 40 to 60 bring changes to most women with migraines. In fact, 1 study found 6 out of 10 women reported changes to life-long migraine patterns during perimenopause and after menopause.4

When migraine makes quality of life worse

Doctors know some people with chronic migraines have worse quality of life than others. For example, people who do not use preventive migraine treatments and young adults ages 20 to 40 tend to report worse quality of life.2,5

Migraines can also worsen other chronic health conditions. Migraines may be confused with a stroke or pinched nerves, leading to unnecessary, costly tests or improper treatments.2,5

Comorbidities

When someone has other health conditions in addition to migraine, quality of life can suffer even more. Unfortunately, migraine is a common disease and can occur with other common diseases such as:5

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Epilepsy
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Asthma

Since migraine affects more than 37 million men, women, and children in the United States, the loss of quality of life is enormous. The American Headache Society estimates migraine impacts 1 in every 4 households in the United States.4

The key to improving quality of life is getting an accurate diagnosis, getting mental health support, and finding the right treatments and lifestyle changes for you.

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Written by: Jessica Johns Pool | Last reviewed: February 2022