According to a recent study in the medical journal Headache, migraines...

According to a recent study in the medical journal Headache, migraines are nearly twice as debilitating today as they were in 2004. Credit: iStock

Throbbing pain, searing light, vomiting — a migraine is no laughing matter. The neurological disease affects more than 39 million Americans, according to the American Migraine Foundation, and some researchers believe climate change might be making it worse.

According to a recent study in the medical journal Headache, migraines are nearly twice as debilitating today as they were in 2004.

In the May report, researchers analyzed 11 episodic and chronic migraine studies of U.S. adults from 1989 to 2018. The results revealed sufferers are not only having more debilitating migraines than they were in decades past, but also more frequent ones.

“While the burden initially increased more significantly among women and has since stabilized, the rate of burden in men has continued to escalate,” lead author Dr. Fred Cohen, assistant professor of medicine and neurology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, told NBC News.

“Additionally, our research indicates that the average monthly frequency of headaches has risen over the past 20 years.”

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes reported migraines are caused by the activation of nerve fibers within the walls of certain brain blood vessels. The disease can cause pain that lasts up to 72 hours and cause sensitivity to light, noise and odors. There are also other factors that can increase a person’s risk of suffering a migraine, including lack of sleep and sudden changes in the weather.

“As extreme weather events, like hurricanes, become more frequent and intense, they could be contributing to an increase in migraine attacks and their severity,” Dr. Timothy A. Collins, chief of the headache division in the department of neurology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, told NBC News.

Climate change remains a major hurdle for the world. According to NASA, hurricanes, droughts and heat waves will continue to escalate in intensity, and global temperatures continue to rise, with 2023 having the hottest summer on record.

“Worsening climate conditions (including rising temperatures, extreme weather patterns and escalating pollution) are likely to lead to effects of two types: heightened attack frequency in people who already have migraine, and an upsurge in the overall occurrence of migraine,” researchers with the University College London wrote to NBC News.

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