HIV/AIDS Patients Are More Vulnerable to Chronic Migraines

December 16, 2011

Individuals living with HIV/AIDS often experience a host of medical complications due to their suppressed immune system. Nearly 50 percent of HIV/AIDS patients in the United States experience headaches. Now researchers have discovered that HIV/AIDS sufferers are more prone to experience chronic migraine headaches than the general population.

A study published online in the journal Headache found that 27.5 percent of the 200 HIV/AIDS patients studied suffered from severe migraine pain at least 15 days each month — a stat that means HIV/AIDS patients are 13 times more likely to experience migraines than individuals who do not have the disease.

The strongest predictor for chronic headaches seems to be the severity of the disease. “Patients with more advanced disease had more frequent, more severe and more disabling migraines,” says Todd Smitherman, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Mississippi and the study’s lead investigator.

This is the first study since highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has become widely available to show a correlation between HIV/AIDS and chronic migraines. Despite research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that shows medications designed to slow the progression of HIV are readily available, most Americans with HIV do not have the disease under control. And when their disease isn’t under control, chances are their chronic headaches aren’t under control either.

While the study offers new insights into the onset of chronic headaches, the researchers hope their findings can help HIV/AIDS patients control their migraine pain and prevent chronic migraines.

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