Migraines are one of the most disabling conditions in the world. They cost billions in terms of lost work and productivity. But for as costly as migraines are, they are poorly understood, and, as a result, they often go untreated or barely treated. Most migraine sufferers have tried many, many different treatments to address their headaches, and, unfortunately, many people are still unhappy with migraine treatment.
Given this situation, it seems that we should try to find all potential causes of migraines and use all potential cures. But many doctors treating migraineurs don’t ask about sleep apnea symptoms, which can cut off a potential treatment.
The Strong Connection between Migraines and Sleep Apnea
A new study has highlighted the strong link between migraines and sleep apnea. In this survey, more than 12,000 people with migraines were surveyed about many relevant health factors, including their potential risk for sleep apnea and/or diagnosed sleep apnea.
Of those surveyed, about 37% were considered to be at high risk for sleep apnea, which is significantly higher than the estimates for sleep apnea in the general population. With the high number of respondents in the survey, these results imply a very strong connection between migraines and sleep apnea.
Migraine Burden Improves When Sleep Apnea Is Treated
Once we know that there’s a strong connection between these conditions, we have to ask: how significant is that association? The tremendous improvement of migraineurs who get their sleep apnea treated argues that the connection is very significant.
In one study, people saw their average duration of migraine attack drop from 22 hours to three when their sleep apnea was treated. They also had their migraine attacks drop from 1.2 per week to 0.1. That level of improvement is better than most migraine drugs and other conventional treatments.
Passing by the potential benefit of sleep apnea treatment for migraine seems like letting a golden opportunity for true migraine relief slip by.
Why Migraine Doctors Don’t Ask about Sleep Apnea
Despite the great potential for benefit, not all migraine doctors remember to ask their patients about sleep apnea.
Part of the reason may be that there is some research suggesting migraines and sleep apnea aren’t linked. But even if we grant that they may not be linked for the general population of migraineurs, it’s likely that many people with migraines may benefit from sleep apnea treatment.
Another part of the reason is just that doctors often don’t think about sleep apnea. Since sleep apnea occurs at night and many of the symptoms may overlap with other conditions, doctors often let sleep apnea go undiagnosed. This may be even more pronounced for headache specialists who think they know what’s causing your headaches.
Take Action to Get Better Treatment
If your doctor isn’t taking action on your risk of sleep apnea, it’s time for you to take over. Bring the issue up with your doctor. And if your doctor still won’t act, take steps to get your sleep apnea diagnosed and treated.