Doctors: Added stress from pandemic causing more migraines, health conditions

Health
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The coronavirus pandemic is creating stressful situations for almost everyone, and three local doctors tell Eyewitness News the added stress is leading to an uptick in migraine attacks.

Dr. Julie Roth, a neurologist at Rhode Island Hospital, says stress is a major risk factor for a number of chronic conditions, including migraines.

“Stress is one of the triggers for their migraine attacks,” Roth said of patients who experience migraines. “So we’re certainly seeing more migraine headaches.”

“Tension in the body can lead to various types of headaches,” Dr. Kevin Baill from Butler Hospital added.

Stress is not the only factor leading to the uptick in migraines. Baill and Roth said also adding to the problem are recent lifestyle changes caused by the pandemic and increased screen time.

“That can have a direct effect on someone as far as having eye strain, neck pain, migraine headaches,” Baill explained.

“Our eyes are exhausted at the end of the day, and that can be another migraine trigger or headache trigger in general,” Roth added.

As the stressful conditions continue, the doctors said there are simple remedies everyone can do to find peace of mind.

“Getting outside, getting fresh air. Doing the things you like to do as much as possible with social distancing,” Dr. Jonelle Raphael of Southcoast Health said.

The doctors said that as people lose their routines, their sleep patterns often change as well. They said this can lead to health problems down the road and should not be ignored.

Baill said stress can have an impact on all parts of our body including the gastrointestinal, nervous, immune and reproductive systems. It also has a significant impact on mental health.

“The longer and the more intense the stress, the more impact that’s going to have on our physical bodies,” Baill said.

Baill and Roth said the pandemic is also causing an increase in opioid overdoses and alcoholism.

“The severity of patients with alcoholism that are coming to our hospital is higher,” Baill said. “They’re sicker than they were before the pandemic.”

“Maybe you didn’t really drink wine before, but now you’re having a glass or a couple every night,” Roth said.

With an increase in stress-related health issues, both doctors recommend everyone exercise, maintain a healthy diet and develop routines.

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