Asthma May Lead to Chronic Migraines

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Do you have asthma? Do you suffer from the occasional migraine? If the answer is yes to both those questions, you may want to check out the latest findings published in the journal ‘Headache’, a publication of the American Headache Society, because you may be at risk of having more migraines.

The study, titled Asthma is a risk factor for new onset chronic migraine: Results from the American migraine prevalence and prevention study, was a collaboration of doctors and researchers from Cincinnati, Chapel Hill, Boston, and the Bronx. The team set out to test the hypothesis that people with asthma who suffer from the occasional migraine also known as episodic migraines (EM), are more likely to go on to suffer from chronic migraines (CM) in comparison to non-asthmatics.

Migraines are a complex problem that can have a number of different symptoms, the main and most familiar being extreme headaches. However they can also include disturbed vision, nausea/vomiting, and sensitivity to light. Migraines affect around 37 million people in the US, with around 2 to 3 million people suffering CM – which is defined as having an episode more than fifteen times per month, every month. The condition can be extremely debilitating.

It has long been known that there is comorbidity of depression and migraines. Around 25% of people who experience regular migraines also suffer from depression. Around 50% of people with migraines also report feelings of anxiety. For this reason, depression was believed to be a leading risk factor for migraines. However, the results of this study, which surveyed over five thousand respondents with asthma and no symptoms of depression, put asthma ahead of depression as the most serious risk factor. Asthma sufferers are twice as likely to develop CM, many within a year of participating in the study. One explanation for this may be that the inflammation associated with asthma is linked in some way to the inflammation causing migraines.

The study authors found that the greatest risk was for those suffering from severe asthma. While those with these health problems may not be able to control factors such as “mast cell degranulation, parasympathetic hyperactivity, enhanced neuropeptide release… or genetic factors”, they should be sure to be weary of environmental triggers. Air pollution is known to worsen asthma symptoms and pollution in the environment can also trigger migraines too.

Although it is highly unlikely that anyone you know who suffers from severe asthma or migraines isn’t already careful about what they expose themselves to in their environment, it may be worth having a talk with them about these findings so they can be additionally cautious of triggers and avoid them.