Migraine’s in Europe and their adverse prevalence in women

A European Migraine Action Plan is needed to tackle an underestimated medical condition impacting 1 in 7 people globally.

By MEP Radka Maxová

MEP Radka Maxová is a Czech member of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament. She is a Vice-Chair of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.

05 Dec 2023

Have you ever wondered what sets a migraine apart from a regular headache? While both cause pain, a typical tension-type headache often presents as a generalised discomfort, whereas a migraine introduces intense symptoms such as heightened sensitivity to light, sound, and movement, making it far more severe. 

Headache disorders are remarkably common neurological conditions, yet they often remain underestimated and not taken as seriously as they should be. Among these, migraine, a primary headache disorder likely with a genetic basis, stands out affecting around 41 million adults in Europe. Migraine  impacts roughly 1 in 7 people globally, with a significantly higher prevalence in women. This gender gap underscores the importance of policy action. Among women aged 18 to 49, migraine is a leading cause of disability frequently dismissed as a mere inconvenience, but it is far more than that. It's a medical-neurological condition with distinct characteristics typically occurring during puberty and continuing to recur throughout a person's life. These attacks can be more than just debilitating; they can become life-altering experiences. It's time to reshape the narrative surrounding migraines and to elevate it to a level of concern that it rightly deserves.  

Migraine isn't a one-size-fits-all condition; it's a diverse disorder with various manifestations, each presenting their own set of symptoms and challenges. Common types of migraine include abdominal migraine, menstrual migraine, chronic migraine, migraine without aura, and migraine with aura. Take, for instance, the widespread perception that menstrual migraines are nothing more than an extended bout of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This belittling assumption obscures the severity of the condition, often leading to inadequate care and support for women who experience it. It's a prime example of the misconception and ignorance that must be addressed. Moreover, it's crucial to recognise the logistical challenges that individuals with migraines face. The heightened sensitivity to light frequently means that visiting a doctor during daylight hours becomes an arduous task. The very environment that should offer solace and help often exacerbates their condition, creating an added burden. 

MEP Radka Maxova
MEP Radka Maxová (S&D, Czechia) 

In the European Union, where healthcare and support for individuals should be paramount, it is essential that we address migraine as a serious medical issue. Addressing migraine is not only a medical concern; it is a societal imperative that demands immediate attention and a comprehensive framework on the EU level.  

As Vice-Chair of the Women’s Rights Committee I commit to establishing a European Migraine Action Plan. This framework must prioritise raising awareness about migraine, offering necessary medical support, and channeling funding towards research. A comprehensive EU Migraine Action Plan, supportive workplaces, and mental health initiatives can improve the lives of millions of migraine patients. It should be our priority to eliminate the stigma associated with migraines and ensure that those who suffer receive the support and understanding they deserve. 

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