Attention Problems in Children with Headache?

Could some attention problems in children actually be related to headache or migraine?

Studies in the past have indicated that visual response times may slow in patients with migraine.  The way we respond to visual stimuli is one way that attention disorders are found and diagnosed.  So – is it possible that attention disorders, particularly in children, could be related to migraine and headache?

Could headache change the way children pay attention?

Researchers in Italy set out to find the answer.  In a study reported on in November by the American Headache Society, 62 children with headache and/or migraine were taken alongside with 52 children without headache or migraine.

The children had three headache types:  migraine with aura, migraine without aura, and tension-type headache.

The children were tested.  Interestingly, there was a difference between the patients and the controls, but there was no difference between children with migraine or tension type headache.

So the answer at this point seems to be yes – children with tension-type headache or migraine do have more problems with attention than children without these conditions.

In their conclusion, researchers wrote:  Our results confirm the presence of an association between attentional problems and headache that may impact academic learning and daily activities on the long term.

The research reminds us again that it’s important to treat children with migraine and tension type headache.  These things truly impact all of life, and not just the moment when the child is having a headache.

It’s very easy for parents and care givers to say,"It’s only a headache, and it’s only once in a while."  But headache should never be considered normal, and should always be taken seriously.  Doing so can avoid many problems in the future.

Incidentally, the researchers rightly noted another hint that this study gives us.  The children had the same results, even in different conditions – hinting again that there may be a very similar physiological basis for both migraine and tension-type headache.  For more on this idea, don’t miss Major shift in Migraine Thought? (part 1).

Here are some tips for dealing with child headache.

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