7 Health Conditions Associated with Migraines

September 29th, 2019

There’s no question about it: migraines can be extremely painful and debilitating. But did you know that they can also affect your health? Migraines can impact the body in several different ways. From increasing the risk for cardiovascular problems to triggering digestive issues, these are seven conditions that are associated with migraines.

 

Coexisting Conditions vs. Comorbidity

When two conditions are found in the same person but the incidence is not greater than what is seen in the general population, these are referred to as coexisting conditions. For example, a patient may have migraine and asthma. There is no evidence suggesting that these two conditions exist in a single patient more frequently than these conditions exist in individual patients in the general population. In contrast, migraine and depression appear to be comorbid because they occur together more often than they occur in individual patients in the general population.

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stroke
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Epilepsy
  • Hypertension

These illnesses are now recognized as being common migraine comorbidities.

Insomnia

Migraines and insomnia have a two-way relationship; poor sleep can trigger migraines, and migraines definitely can keep you from getting a good night’s sleep. It is estimated that one in four people have insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep, waking out repeatedly throughout the night, and not having a restful sleep. People with insomnia tend to get less than six hours of sleep.

Scientists believe that one of the reasons why sleep deprivation is so closely related to migraines has to do with pain processing. A research study published recently in the Journal of Neuroscience looked at the relationship between sleep and pain.

Researchers measured the brain activity and pain thresholds of 25 participants during one night of sound sleep and one sleep-deprived night. Their results showed that participants’ pain threshold was significantly lower when they were sleep-deprived than when they had a restful sleep.  Migraine sufferers should pay close attention to their sleep habits and if that isn’t enough, consider nutritional supplements for extra support.  Melatonin, Vitamin B6, Magnesium, Glycine, Valerian Root, Zizyphus Jujube, and Hops are all well-known supplements for establishing healthy sleep patterns.

Stroke

A stroke happens when there is a sudden interruption in the blood flow to the brain, depriving it of the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to survive. When strokes are not caught in time, it can cause severe tissue damage and disability. Strokes are the fifth cause of death in the and the leading cause of disability in the United States.

There is not enough evidence to suggests that migraines cause strokes. However, several research studies have found connections between strokes and aura – the sensory symptoms that sometimes precede migraines. According to an investigation conducted by the American Stroke Association, individuals who have migraines with aura are 2.4 more likely to have a stroke than those without aura.

Epilepsy

Epilepsy, also called seizure disorder, is a neurological condition that causes seizures that originate in the brain. A person is typically diagnosed with epilepsy after they’ve had more than two unprovoked seizures.

Just like migraines, abnormal activities in the brain cause seizures. However, not everybody who suffers from migraines will necessarily develop seizures and vice versa. EEG scans have shown that the brain activity that during a migraine is similar to the activity that occurs during a seizure, but researchers are still trying to make sense of out that connection.

Heart Disease

Heart disease, also known as cardiovascular disease, is an umbrella term for a cluster of conditions that affect the health of the heart. Some of the conditions that fall under the heart disease group include:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Arrhythmia
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Angina
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Heart infections

Heart disease and migraines do not have a comorbid relationship however, research suggests that migraines with aura increase the risk of developing heart disease, particularly within the first year of diagnosis. People with migraines also tend to have heart disease-related risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and an irregular heartbeat.

Anxiety & Depression

Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health issues and are comorbid with migraine. In the United States, it is estimated that more than 18% of the population suffers from at least one type of anxiety, 6% from depression, and even more in the case of migraine sufferers.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, as many as 40% of people with migraines suffer from depression. Other mental health problems that are more prevalent among migraine sufferers are generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, bipolar disorder, agoraphobia, and substance abuse.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine (aka the colon). IBS causes abdominal cramping, constipation and/or diarrhea, gas, and bloating. Though the cause of IBS is not known, doctors believe that faulty communications between the gastrointestinal tract (GI) and the brain may play an important role.

It is a well-known fact that nausea, vomiting, and digestive issues are common symptoms of migraine attacks. In fact, there is a type of migraine without headaches, called abdominal migraine, which occurs mostly in children but is now being diagnosed more frequently in adults.  Now, recent studies have also discovered that people (especially women) who have IBS are more likely to suffer from migraines.

Fibromyalgia

Research studies show that there is a bidirectional relationship between migraines and fibromyalgia (FM). That means that in some cases, FM has been observed to trigger migraines and in others, migraines seem to provoke FM. It is estimated that between 45 and 80 percent of patients with FM suffer from chronic migraines and 18 to 35% of chronic migraine sufferers also suffer with fibromyalgia.  According to a recent study in published in the British Medical Journal, fibromyalgia had stronger predictive power for the onset of migraine than did migraine for the onset of fibromyalgia.

The Comorbidity and Coexisting Condition Challenge

If you’ve been diagnosed with a physical and/or mental health condition, keep good records of the care that you receive from various professionals, so that each can be aware of the various treatments you are receiving and various therapies you are using.  It is important  to avoid negative drug interactions.  Also, the treatments that benefit one condition may be detrimental for another.

If possible, prevent comorbid conditions from taking hold by addressing early symptoms as soon as possible.  For example, if social anxiety disorder is left untreated for a long time, it may lead to depression and substance abuse.   Don’t forget that good nutrition and  proper sleep goes a long way toward maintaining good health and longevity.