Chronic migraine: risk factors, mechanisms and treatment

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Chronic migraine has a great detrimental influence on a patient's life, with a severe impact on socioeconomic functioning and quality of life. Chronic migraine affects 1–2% of the general population, and about 8% of patients with migraine; it usually develops from episodic migraine at an annual conversion rate of about 3%. The chronification is reversible: about 26% of patients with chronic migraine go into remission within 2 years of chronification. The most important modifiable risk factors for chronic migraine include overuse of acute migraine medication, ineffective acute treatment, obesity, depression and stressful life events. Moreover, age, female sex and low educational status increase the risk of chronic migraine. The pathophysiology of migraine chronification can be understood as a threshold problem: certain predisposing factors, combined with frequent headache pain, lower the threshold of migraine attacks, thereby increasing the risk of chronic migraine. Treatment options include oral medications, nerve blockade with local anaesthetics or corticoids, and neuromodulation. Well-defined diagnostic criteria are crucial for the identification of chronic migraine. The International Headache Society classification of chronic migraine was recently updated, and now allows co-diagnosis of chronic migraine and medication overuse headache. This Review provides an up-to-date overview of the classification of chronic migraine, basic mechanisms and risk factors of migraine chronification, and the currently established treatment options.

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