Migraines are more than just a painful reality for children who suffer the chronic headaches. New research shows the blinding pain and vision disturbances migraines cause also appear to hinder their learning ability.
The study, commissioned by Merck & Co. and published in the journal neurology, showed children who suffer migraines are 30 percent more likely to have below-average school performance than kids who do not have the headaches.
"Studies have looked at the burden of migraine for adolescents,” said lead researcher Dr. Marcelo E. Bigal, a Merck & Co. health specialist and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “But less work has been done to determine the effect of migraine on younger children."
For the study, Bigal and colleagues tracked the health and academic records of 5,671 Brazilian children, ages 5 to 12 years old. The students’ teachers provided information on their grades, emotional issues, and behavioral problems. Researchers also surveyed the children’s parents about their medical history, headaches, and other information.
The results showed that 0.6 percent of the children had chronic migraines, or migraines on 15 or more days per month; 9 percent had episodic migraines; and 17.6 percent had probable migraines.
They found the link between migraines and poor performance in school was strongest for children with more severe, prolonged, or chronic headaches. They also tended to have more emotional or behavioral problems than their peers.
"With approximately one-fourth of school-age children having headaches with migraine features, this is a serious problem, especially for those with frequent, severe attacks that do not subside quickly," Bigal said. "Parents and teachers need to take these headaches seriously and make sure children get appropriate medical attention and treatment."