An article from Norwegian SciTech News at NTNU

Improving migraine treatment with an app

Migraine patients can toss away their headache diaries and pull out their smartphones to start tracking headaches. The app may become an important tool in prescribing the correct medications.

Gemini, NTNU Trondheim - Norwegian University of Science and Technology

NTNU is the second largest of the eight universities in Norway, and has the main national responsibility for higher education in engineering and technology.

“Headache patients often lose track of their disease. When they have a migraine, they are very sick, but otherwise they feel fine,” says researcher Erling Tronvik.

With a new app, patients can record a headache when it starts, and plot their use of migraine medications and regular pain killers.

Paper diaries inconvenient

As a researcher at The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and a physician at St. Olavs Hospital, Tronvik is able to study headaches while also treating patients in the clinic. Tronvik and his colleagues got the idea for the app when struggling to find good tools to document their patients’ illness over time.

“Until now, we’ve used migraine diaries on paper, but experience tells us that a lot of patients find this somewhat inconvenient,” says Tronvik.

“You don’t always have your diary on hand, so it can be hard to remember to write down attacks. But you always have your phone around, and noting a headache only takes a few keystrokes.”

The app also groups recorded data and gives a graphic representation of how your headache changes over time.

Help with prescribing the right drugs

After prescribing a preventative migraine medication to a patient, doctors need to track how the medication affects their symptoms.

The headache app helps doctors prescribe the right medications for their patients, and prevents patients from continuing to take drugs that don’t work.

“The incorrect use of pain killers can also cause a medication-induced headache and make symptoms worse,” explains Tronvik.

“By tracking changes in headaches over time and recording painkiller use, it’s easier for us to see if the headache is caused by overuse of drugs.”

First Norway, then the world

The app will initially be released for patients in Norway, but headache experts in other countries have also shown great interest in the app.

“We hope that we will have an opportunity to continue developing the app, including translating it into several different languages and developing a function that allows doctors to put in the correct headache diagnosis,” says Tronvik.

The app (currently only in Norwegian) can be found here, or by searching for “Hodepinedagboka” in the app store.

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