Age-dependent prevalence and clinical features of migraine

Marcelo E. Bigal, Joshua N. Liberman, Richard B. Lipton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

198 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Available data suggest two seemingly opposite trends with regard to the natural history of migraine. Migraine prevalence decreases with age. In some individuals, migraine progresses to chronic daily headache. OBJECTIVE: To contrast the clinical features of migraine across the life span. METHODS: A validated computer-assisted telephone interview (CATI) was used to identify a population sample in three urban centers in the United States. Eligible participants were older than 18 years. The CATI covered the International Classification of Headache Disorders criteria for migraine and probable migraine (PM). Prevalence and clinical features of migraine and PM were examined by age. RESULTS: This sample consists of 145,335 participants. The overall prevalence of migraine was 15%, whereas the overall prevalence of PM was 14.6%. Migraine prevalence was highest between ages 30 and 39 years. In older ages, PM was more prevalent than migraine. Among those with migraine, the prevalence of unilateral and throbbing pain peaked at intermediate ages and declined after that. The prevalence of photophobia and phonophobia related to the attacks declined with ages, whereas the prevalence of aura increased. The proportion of those with 10 to 14 headache days per month also increased, from 12.5% in those ages 18 to 29 to 41.0% (odds ratio = 4.8, 95% CI = 3.9 to 7.1) in those older than 70. CONCLUSION: The profile of migraine changes over the life span and suggests three nonexclusive profiles. In many, migraine remits. In some patients with migraine, attacks get less typical, resembling probable migraine instead of full migraine. In some, migraine progresses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)246-251
Number of pages6
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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