Aging is a fact of life. Getting older means increasing frailty and susceptibility to illness, but it can also be a boon to migraineurs (people who experience migraine headaches). Only 2-10% of the elderly population experiences migraines (as opposed to up to 28% of adults under 65), and elderly women are still more likely to have them than their male counterparts.
Migraines can happen at any age, but they peak around age 40. The frequency of migraine attacks after 40 decreases for most people. Many migraineurs who have suffered with this condition for years experience a reduction in the frequency and severity of attacks after age 55.
About two thirds of migraineurs stop having attacks altogether by age 65. Patients over 65 who still have migraines report drastically decreased severity, duration, and frequency in their attacks. They are also less likely to experience the gastrointestinal upset that accompanies migraine in younger people.
The downside to all this good news is that adults over 65 who suffer from migraines are more likely than younger patients to experience disability because of their affliction. Many physicians are uncomfortable with treating senior citizens for migraines because therapeutic methods used on younger people are often not tested for safety in an older patient.
Additional conditions and the medications used to treat them complicate the problem. Seniors are more likely to be on one or more prescription drugs and each new medication increases the risk of adverse drug reactions. This possibility makes some doctors reluctant to offer senior migraineurs pharmaceutical assistance.
The onset of migraines after age 50 is very rare and should be investigated with a doctor to rule out the possibility of secondary causes. Late onset does not rule out migraine (only one third of senior headaches are due to secondary conditions) but it makes it less likely.