Ulm/Biberach, January 30, 2015: Mass disease migraine: Almost four percent of residents suffer from severe headache attacks. The number of those affected has increased continuously and significantly over the last six years: AOK Ulm-Biberach has recorded 20 percent more migraine patients among its insured persons in Biberach, Alb-Donau-Kreis and Ulm since 2007. The disease is more likely to be female ; four out of five people affected are women. However, men are catching up: the regional average number of male patients rose by 30 percent.

Since 2007, there has been an average increase in illnesses of 2.7 percent per year in Baden-Württemberg. There has also been a greater increase among men since 2009. Cities and districts with the most affected insured people in 2013 are Esslingen (8,500), Ludwigsburg (7,800) and Stuttgart (7,600). In contrast, 2,000 people in Pforzheim, 3,000 in the Enz district, 2,500 in the Calw district and 2,200 people in the Freudenstadt district are affected by migraines. The AOK Baden-Württemberg registered almost 1,300 hospital cases of migraine and spent EUR 1.8 million on treatment

The AOK Ulm-Biberach registered 8,335 migraine patients in 2013. With 227,000 AOK insured people at that time, this means that one in 27 consulted a doctor because of this illness. Six years previously there were 6,894 insured people. This means the number of those affected increased by 20 percent. The individual annual increases are between two and almost six percent.

The increase is also relatively constant across the various regions: In Biberach, 2,780 migraine patients were treated by a doctor in 2007; in 2013 there were 21.4 percent more, namely 3,374. This means that this district has the largest increase. The Alb-Donau district follows with an increase of 20.4 percent, from 2,775 to 3,340 affected people. In Ulm the number increased by 20.1 percent from 1,339 to 1,621 people. The development can therefore be tracked over the years and across regions. The actual numbers are likely to be higher because only migraine sufferers who had visited their doctor were taken into account.

It is interesting that the increase varies greatly between the sexes: in the same period, the proportion of female migraine patients increased by 18.8 percent, but that of males increased by 30 percent. Large regional differences can be seen here. In Biberach, the increase for women at 21.4 percent was even slightly higher than for men at 21.3 percent. In the Alb-Donau district, on the other hand, the number of female migraine patients rose by only 15.8 percent, but among men by 40.7 percent. In the city of Ulm, 19.6 percent more women were affected, but 27.8 percent more men were affected. The ratio of women to men suffering from migraines is around four to one. Most patients are in the age groups 20 to 24 and between 35 and 54 years, with a significant drop in between. The number drops sharply with age.

The reasons for this sharp increase in migraine patients are unclear because the causes of the disease have not been clearly researched. The trigger is overexcitation of the nerve cells, which results in overactivity of the brain. “Too little sleep, too much stress, excessive sensory overload and lack of drinking can trigger migraines in those affected,” explains Dr. Sabine Schwenk, managing director of AOK Ulm-Biberach. “The vessels in the brain then narrow.” In addition to the headache attacks, symptoms include sensitivity to light and noise and nausea. “A regulated and healthy lifestyle with regular endurance sports and relaxation exercises can prevent migraine attacks,” Schwenk continues. “However, patients should always talk to their doctor individually about suitable prevention and treatment measures.”

For data collection: All AOK insured persons from the AOK district directorate Ulm-Biberach who live in the city of Ulm, the city and district of Biberach and the Alb-Donau district and who were treated by a doctor in the corresponding calendar years with the main diagnosis of migraine are taken into account. AOK Ulm-Biberach has a market share of around 50 percent among those with statutory health insurance in the region.

Press office AOK Ulm-Biberach