Kaplan Award 1998. Epidemiology of chronic daily headache in the general population

Headache. 1999 Mar;39(3):190-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1526-4610.1999.3903190.x.


Background and objectives: Although chronic daily headache, mainly transformed migraine, is an important reason for consultation in headache clinics, its actual prevalence is unknown. This study analyzes the prevalence of the different types of chronic daily headache in an unselected population.

Methods: A questionnaire exploring headache frequency was distributed to 2252 unselected subjects. Those having headache 10 or more days per month were given a headache diary and were seen by a neurologist who classified their headaches. The varieties of chronic daily headache were classified according to the second revision of IHS criteria proposed by Silberstein et al published in Neurology 1996;47:871.

Results: The questionnaire was returned by 1883 subjects (83.5%). One hundred thirty-five admitted to headache 10 or more days per month. Chronic daily headache criteria were fulfilled by 89 individuals (4.7%). Eighty were women. Forty-two (47.2% of subjects with chronic daily headache and 2.2% of all subjects) had chronic tension-type headache. Analgesic overuse was found in 8 (17%). Transformed migraine was diagnosed in 45 (50.6% of subjects with chronic daily headache and 2.4% of all subjects). Fourteen (31.1%) individuals with this form of chronic daily headache overused ergots or analgesics. The remaining 2 cases in this series met the criteria of new daily persistent headache. No one was diagnosed as having hemicrania continua.

Conclusions: Almost 5% of the general population (9% of women) suffers from chronic daily headache, the proportion of chronic tension-type headache and transformed migraine being quite similar. Less than one third overuse analgesics. The prevalence of chronic daily headache subtypes shown here differs from data obtained from headache clinics, emphasizing that caution is needed in extrapolating data from specialized units to the general population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Headache Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Tension-Type Headache / epidemiology