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Medication-overuse headache: a review

Authors Kristoffersen ES, Lundqvist C

Received 22 March 2014

Accepted for publication 8 May 2014

Published 26 June 2014 Volume 2014:7 Pages 367—378

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S46071

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 5


Espen Saxhaug Kristoffersen,1–3 Christofer Lundqvist1,2,4

1Research Centre, Akershus University Hospital, Lørenskog, 2Department of Neurology, Akershus University Hospital, Nordbyhagen, 3Department of General Practice, Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo, Oslo, 4Institute of Clinical Medicine, Campus Akershus University Hospital, University of Oslo, Nordbyhagen, Norway

Abstract: Medication-overuse headache (MOH) is a worldwide health problem with a prevalence of 1%–2%. It is a severe form of headache where the patients often have a long history of headache and of unsuccessful treatments. MOH is characterized by chronic headache and overuse of different headache medications. Through the years, withdrawal of the overused medication has been recognized as the treatment of choice. However, currently, there is no clear consensus regarding the optimal strategy for management of MOH. Treatment approaches are based on expert opinion rather than scientific evidence. This review focuses on aspects of epidemiology, diagnosis, pathogenesis, prevention, and treatment of MOH. We suggest that information and education about the risk of MOH is important since the condition is preventable. Most patients experience reduction of headache days and intensity after successful treatment. The first step in the treatment of MOH should be carried out in primary care and focus primarily on withdrawal, leaving prophylactic medication to those who do not manage primary detoxification. For most patients, a general practitioner can perform the follow-up after detoxification. More complicated cases should be referred to neurologists and headache clinics. Patients suffering with MOH have much to gain by an earlier treatment-focused approach, since the condition is both preventable and treatable.

Keywords: medication-overuse headache, migraine, chronic headache, dependence

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