Migraine is a medical condition that can cause a person to experience intense headaches. Researchers have found evidence to suggest that genetic factors can cause migraine.
Information from the American Migraine Foundation suggests that over 37 million people in the United States experience migraine. Migraine causes severe headaches that may last hours or days.
Many factors can lead to a person having migraine, including inherited factors. This article will cover what migraine is, the genetic link, and when to contact a doctor.
Yes, migraine is genetic. Research indicates that both genetic and environmental factors can lead to migraine. However, experts are not sure how exactly genetic factors cause migraine.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, a person with one parent with migraine has a 50% chance of developing migraine. The possibility of having migraine rises to 75% if both parents have it.
More than half of people who have migraine have at least one relative who has it.
In 2021, researchers noted that
Research from 2018 found more than
Experts believe that a cluster of gene mutations may be responsible for migraine. Researchers from the 2018 study analyzed 1,589 families who experienced migraine headaches.
The researchers found that these families had an increased amount of migraine-causing genetic variations than the general population.
Certain migraine traits may also have links with a strong family history of migraine, such as:
- migraine headaches starting at a younger age
- more frequent migraine episodes
- migraine headaches with aura
- migraine headaches that require a person to take medication for a longer period
Yes, certain types of migraine have strong genetic links. A person can inherit a form of migraine called familial hemiplegic migraine (FHM) in an
This means that a person only needs to inherit one copy of the mutated gene to have FHM. However, a person will not necessarily have FHM just because they have the mutation.
There are four types of FHM. The type of FHM a person has depends on the gene that causes it. The four types of FHM are:
- FHM type 1: FHM type 1 is the most common FHM caused by mutations in the CACNA1A gene.
- FHM type 2: This FHM happens due to mutations in the ATP1A2 gene. FHM type 2 may also be involved with seizures.
- FHM type 3: FHM type 3 occurs because of SCN1A gene mutations.
- FHM type 4: A doctor will diagnose FHM type 4 if they cannot find a gene that causes the FHM.
If a person knows about their genetic link to migraine, it can help them get a diagnosis and receive treatment quickly. If a person knows they have a history of migraine, they can also help family members to get the correct diagnosis.
Family members can help each other:
- figure out migraine triggers and symptoms
- work out which treatment option works best
- determine whether headache patterns have changed throughout their lives
- figure out when migraine episodes may start occurring
Migraine is a condition that causes a person to experience moderate to severe headaches. Migraine headaches usually occur on one side of a person’s head, though they can develop on both sides.
When a person has a migraine episode, they may experience up to four different stages of symptoms. The stages of a migraine include:
Prodrome, or preheadache, is the stage of migraine that occurs before a person has a headache. Prodrome can last from several hours to several days. This stage can include the following symptoms:
- increased need to urinate
- food cravings
- sensitivity to light or sound
- difficulty concentrating
- muscle stiffness
- difficulty speaking or reading
Aura is a type of visual disturbance that can occur during a migraine episode. Around 25% of people who have migraine episodes also experience auras. Auras tend to occur before a headache develops.
Aura symptoms typically develop over a space of 5 minutes and can last up to 60 minutes.
Symptoms of aura include:
- temporary loss of sight
- numbness or tingling in part of the body
- blind spots in one or both eyes
- blurred vision
- flashing, shimmering lights in vision
- seeing geometric patterns
Learn more about migraine auras here.
The headache phase of a migraine can last from 3 hours up to 3 days. If a person has a headache for more than 3 days, a doctor or other health professional can help.
Migraine headaches can vary from person to person and episode to episode. The pain can be mild or debilitating. A person experiencing a migraine episode may find that the pain moves around their head or may stay in one area.
Symptoms of a migraine headache can include:
- throbbing, drilling, stabbing, or burning pain
- pain around the eyes or cheeks
- pain that worsens with movement
- blocked nose
- sensitivity to light, smell, or sound
- neck pain or stiffness
Learn the difference between migraine and headache here.
Postdrome is the phase that occurs after a migraine headache. Around 80% of people who have migraine experience postdrome. Postdrome can last 1–2 days after a migraine headache.
Symptoms of postdrome include:
- inability to concentrate
- difficulty understanding things
- body aches
- sensitivity to light
A person should seek medical attention if they experience any of the following:
- a very sudden headache that starts within a couple of seconds
- new symptoms that occur alongside the migraine episode, including:
- new symptoms with any of the following conditions:
- liver, heart, or kidney disease
- a disorder that affects the immune system, such as HIV
- new symptoms and are pregnant
Emergency care staff will work to ensure a person is not experiencing symptoms of a life threatening condition. However, emergency care staff are not usually specialists in migraine or headaches.
If a person notices their treatment is not helping reduce the symptoms of migraine episodes or has been experiencing pain for a long time, they should contact their migraine specialist.
Although there is no cure for migraine, there are various ways a person can manage their migraine episodes. Medications are a
Medications that provide pain relief for migraine include:
- over-the-counter medications, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin
- triptans or ergotamines, which reduce inflammation and return blood vessels to normal size
- antiemetics, which help with nausea and vomiting
- gepants, such as Ubrelvy, which reduce inflammation
Medications that prevent migraine episodes
Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, yoga, or regular exercise can also help prevent migraine episodes.
Research has shown that migraine has a strong genetic link. A person who has a relative who has migraine is likely to have it too. Understanding a person’s genetic link to migraine can help them receive treatment.
Migraine is a condition that causes mild to severe headaches and other symptoms.
There is no cure for migraine, but various medications can provide pain relief or prevent migraine episodes.
If a person experiences a migraine episode for the first time, they should contact their doctor. If a person has unusual or worrying migraine symptoms, they should seek immediate medical help.