Newly diagnosed migraine sufferers 3 times as likely to crash their car
A study has found that older adults newly diagnosed with migraines are more than three times as likely to crash their motor vehicle in the first year after diagnosis than those who’ve never had a migraine. The findings have potential implications for the safety of older patients who may benefit from counseling about safe driving.
Affecting over one billion people worldwide, migraine can cause symptoms of fatigue, drowsiness, impaired concentration, light sensitivity (photophobia), neck stiffness, head and neck pain, dizziness, and vertigo. These kinds of symptoms can be debilitating but, in older adults particularly, may affect driving safety.
A new study by researchers at the University of Colorado (CU) Anschutz Medical Campus examined the association between migraines and motor vehicle crashes (MVCs) and driving habits in older drivers, including whether migraine medications played a role.
“Migraine headaches affect more than 7% of US adults over the age of 60,” said Carolyn DiGuiseppi, lead and corresponding author of the study. “The US population is aging, which means increasing numbers of older adult drivers could see their driving abilities affected by migraine symptoms previously not experienced.”
The researchers conducted a longitudinal study of 2,589 drivers aged 65 to 79. Of those, 12.5% reported previously experiencing a migraine (‘prevalent migraine’), and 1.3% reported experiencing migraine symptoms for the first time during the study timeframe (‘incident migraine’). During a two-year follow-up, the researchers recorded self-reported MVCs and measured driving habits using a recording device fitted to a participant’s car. Rapid deceleration (‘hard braking’) and speeding served as proxies for unsafe driving.
While, after accounting for medication use, older drivers with prevalent migraine drove slightly less often on average and had slightly more hard-braking events than those who’d never had a migraine, prevalent migraine did not increase the odds of having a crash. In contrast, incident migraines were associated with substantially increased odds of having at least one MVC; those with new-onset migraines were more than three times as likely to experience a crash in the year following compared to drivers who’d never had a migraine. The researchers did not find evidence that medications commonly prescribed for acute migraine treatment or chronic migraine prophylaxis interacted with or substantially influenced these relationships.
The researchers proposed that those experiencing migraines for the first time may not have had their symptoms adequately managed with medications or lifestyle changes, or they might’ve been self-medicating with inappropriate medications. All of these factors, they say, could adversely affect their driving.
They say the findings may have clinical implications for older patients with newly diagnosed migraines who drive.
“These results have potential implications for the safety of older patients that should be addressed,” DiGuiseppi said. “Patients with a new migraine diagnosis would benefit from talking with their clinicians about driving safety, including being extra careful about other risks, such as distracted driving, alcohol, pain medication and other factors that affect driving.”
The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Source: CU Anschutz Medical Campus