Pathophysiology of Headaches

Part of the series Headache pp 217-234

Pathophysiology of Migraine: Current Status and Future Directions

  • Jakob Møller HansenAffiliated withDepartment of Neurology, Faculty of Health Sciences, Glostrup Hospital, Danish Headache Center, University of Copenhagen Email author 
  • , Dan LevyAffiliated withDepartment of Anesthesia Critical Care and Pain Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School Email author 

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Around 10 % of the global adult population has active migraine. The public health burden of migraine is high because migraine attacks are associated with temporary disability and substantial impairment in activities. As such, migraine is ranked as one of the most disabling conditions. The widespread disability produced by migraine is therefore an important target for treatment.

The hallmark of migraine is the head pain, but a plethora of other clinical symptoms is needed for a headache to be qualified as a migraine according to the current diagnostic criteria.

There has been tremendous progress in our acceptance, understanding and treatment possibilities of migraine, but to optimize migraine management, it is important that we continue to improve our understanding of the basic migraine mechanisms. An understanding of migraine pathophysiology must encompass the varied clinical symptoms and relate these findings to anatomy and physiology.