BARCELONA, Spain — Around half of all patients with chronic headache or migraine overuse their medication, leading to aggravated or new types of headaches. “Medication overuse headache” is the third most frequent type of headache, affecting some 60 million people or around 1% of the world’s population.
“It’s a big problem,” Sait Ashina of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, told the audience in an opening plenary at the 17th European Headache Congress in Barcelona. “But it’s important to distinguish between medication overuse, which is a behavior, and medication overuse headache, which is a distinct secondary order condition.”
Medication overuse headache is characterized by an increasing headache frequency and progressive use of short-term medication and is recognized as a major factor in the shift from episodic to chronic headache.
It is often under-recognized; however, educating doctors and patients is a crucial element of effective treatment. Recognition that headache medication is being overused is a crucial first step to treatment, followed by advising the patient to discontinue the medication. But this poses its own problems, as it can cause withdrawal symptoms.
According to a longitudinal population-based study published in 2008, most patients overuse acetaminophen or paracetamol, followed by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and 5-hydroxytriptamine agonists (triptans) and, in the United States, barbiturates and opioids.
What’s the Best Treatment Strategy?
Medication overuse headache is often treated by complete withdrawal from medication, but the withdrawal symptoms can be severe. They include nausea and vomiting, arterial hypertension, tachycardia, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and restlessness, with their duration and severity depending solely on the type of headache medication that has been overused.
There is, however, no consensus on how best to treat medication overuse headache — compared withdrawal plus preventive treatment, preventive treatment without withdrawal, and withdrawal with optional preventive treatment 2 months after withdrawal. The findings showed that all three strategies were effective. But the research team concluded that withdrawal combined with preventive medication from the start of withdrawal was the recommended approach.
The electronic headache diary has proven to be very useful, as it can aid accurate diagnosis by providing clear insights into a patient’s condition. Information from the diary is more reliable than self-reports because patients often underestimate the frequency of their headaches, migraines, and use of medication.
Patients who are treated for medication overuse headache tend to have a high relapse rate. So, the electronic headache diary can also be very useful for follow-up by alerting patients and clinicians when headaches and medication overuse are increasing again.
“After diagnosing medication overuse or medication overuse headache, we advise our patients to discontinue the medication,” said Judith Pijpers of Leiden University Medical School, the Netherlands. “This provides clinically relevant improvements in headache frequency in a majority of patients and a significant reduction in headache days.”
In 2019, Pijpers and her colleagues published the results of a double-blind randomized controlled trial showing that botulinum toxin A, which is widely used to treat chronic migraine, has no additional benefit over acute withdrawal in patients with chronic migraine and medication overuse.
“We saw no difference between the groups during both the double-blind and the open label phase,” said Pijpers. “And that is why we do not give patients botulinum toxin A during withdrawal.”
A further trial within the botox study showed modest benefits for behavioral intervention by a headache nurse comprising education, motivational interviewing, and value-based activity planning during withdrawal therapy.
Patients can be stratified to some extent based on the type of headache they have and the medication they are taking for it.
“You can predict [a patient’s response] to some extent from the type of medication they overuse and the type of underlying primary headache,” Pijpers told Medscape Medical News.
“Those with underlying tension-type headache have different withdrawal symptoms than those with underlying migraine, and the withdrawal symptoms tend to be somewhat shorter if a patient overuses triptans compared to analgesics.”
Predicting Patients’ Responses to Migraine Medication
Pijpers and her colleagues recently published the results of a cohort study suggesting that cutaneous allodynia may predict how patients with migraine respond to withdrawal therapy. Nearly 75% of the 173 patients enrolled in the study reported experiencing allodynia — pain caused by a stimulus that does not normally cause pain. The study showed that absence of allodynia was predictive of a good outcome for patients after withdrawal therapy and of reversion from chronic to episodic migraine.
The ability to accurately predict patients’ responses could pave the way for personalized treatments of medication overuse headache.
Moheb Costandi is a freelance writer based in London.
Source link : https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/ehc-2023-medication-overuse-headache-pain-treat-2023a1000ukg?src=rss
Publish date : 2023-12-07 14:07:39
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