Older Drivers Face Increased Risk of Accidents Following Migraine Diagnosis: Study

Researchers suggest that older driver should be monitored in the year following a new migraine diagnosis, due to impacts the condition and medications may have on driving skills.

Older adult drivers who were recently diagnosed with migraine headaches face an increased risk of being involved in an auto accident, according to the findings of a new study.

In a report published last month in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers indicate elderly drivers with newly diagnosed migraine conditions were more than three times as likely to experience a car crash within one year of their diagnosis, compared to those previously diagnosed with the condition, and to those who have never experienced a migraine.

Migraines are severe, recurring headaches that can persist for hours or even days after they occur. They can cause debilitating symptoms, including intense head or facial pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light or sound, which researchers indicate may affect driving behavior and safety.

More than 7% of adults over the age of 60 suffer from migraines in the United States, and may experience new and more intense migraine symptoms that could hinder their driving abilities, including decreased concentration, sleepiness, and dizziness, among others, according to researchers.

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New Migraine Diagnosis Linked to Increased Accident Risks

In this latest study, a team of medical researchers used the data of 2,589 drivers between the ages of 65 and 79 years old, from five different states in the U.S., to assess their driving behaviors and incidents of car accidents after two years. They also reviewed the migraine medications participants frequently used to determine if medication use was associated with higher instances of car accidents.

Most participants reported they had never experienced migraine symptoms at the beginning of the study, while 12.5% of participants reported they were previously diagnosed with migraines, and 1.3% reported they experienced migraine-like symptoms but had not been diagnosed with the condition.

The data revealed those with new onset migraines were more than three times as likely to experience an accident within one year of their diagnosis, compared to the other participants. Those who had previously been diagnosed with migraines had the same likelihood of being involved in an accident as those who had never experienced them, according to the data. However, participants previously diagnosed with migraines had higher instances of hard braking events, compared to those without the condition.

In reviewing the instances of car accidents associated with commonly prescribed migraine medications, researchers found the medications did not have a significant impact on driving behavior or accidents. However, researchers noted that few study participants were using acute migraine medications.

The findings suggest that older migraine sufferers may need driving safety intervention in the year following diagnosis, due to the increased risk of accidents. Researchers indicate older drivers with a new migraine diagnosis can benefit by speaking to their healthcare provider about safe driving, and other risk factors that affect driving, including distractions, alcohol, and pain medication.

Researchers also indicate the study findings warrant further research on the timing, frequency, and severity of migraine symptoms and diagnosis, as well as the use of prescription migraine medication to examine the relationship between these factors and driving outcomes.

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