What is the prevalence of migraine variants (equivalents)?

Updated: Oct 16, 2019
  • Author: Rima M Dafer, MD, MPH, FAHA; Chief Editor: Helmi L Lutsep, MD  more...
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Migraine affects nearly 13% of the adult US population, with a postpubertal female-to-male ratio of 4:1. The frequency of the less common migraine variants varies with the migraine type and patient age. The prevalence of hemiplegic migraine is 0.03%; both familial and sporadic forms are equally frequent. The prevalence of the distinct alternating hemiplegic migraine of infancy is unknown. Similarly, the prevalences of ophthalmoplegic, retinal, and confusional migraine are unknown.

Sex-related differences in prevalence may be observed in some types of migraine variants. Basilar migraine and migraine aura without headaches are more common in women than in men. Similarly, hemiplegic migraine is more common in women, with a male-to-female sex ratio of 1:3. Benign coital headache has a male-to-female ratio of 4:1.

Specific migraine variants are observed at different frequencies in different age groups, [5] as follows:

  • Ophthalmoplegic migraine, childhood periodic vomiting, and abdominal migraine are almost exclusively of childhood onset, affecting children younger than 10 years

  • Basilar and retinal migraines are more frequent in adolescents and young adults

  • Migraine aura without headache is mainly encountered in adults with long-standing history of migraine aura in early life

  • Hemiplegic migraine in its familial and sporadic forms has been reported in all age groups

  • Alternating hemiplegia of childhood is exclusive to children younger than 18 months

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