While there is no evidence to suggest that migraine headaches are the root cause of seizures or that seizures cause a person to experience migraine, some research shows a connection between the two.
Migraine is a condition involving neurological symptoms that include intense head pain. Statistics from the American Migraine Foundation show that migraine affects 39 million people in the United States.
A seizure is a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain. It can impact the way a person acts or appears. Seizures may be the result of epilepsy, or they may have another cause, such as trauma.
Both migraine and seizures are episodic conditions, meaning that a person does not experience symptoms all the time, and flares may come in episodes. Certain things can trigger an attack of either condition or increase the likelihood of them occurring.
This article looks at the connection and explores the research into the link between seizures and migraine.
There is currently no conclusive evidence to suggest a causal link between migraine and epileptic seizures, according to research from 2017.
However, researchers note that people who experience migraine headaches are more likely to have epileptic seizures than those who do not. They note that people who experience seizures are also more likely to have migraine headaches.
The conditions are comorbid, meaning that they often both occur in the same individual. Migraine and epilepsy also appear to share many of the same clinical features.
Possibilities as to why the two conditions may occur together include:
- Hereditary factors: Seizures and migraine can both have genetic causes, and the same genetic mutations that may cause migraine may also lead to epilepsy.
- Abnormal brain activity: Both conditions involve the brain and abnormalities of the brain. It could therefore be that frequently experiencing seizures could lead to a person developing migraine as a result of the abnormal brain activity.
- Migraine with aura: Some migraine headaches develop with aura, which involves visual disturbances, such as flashing lights. These lights could trigger a person to have a seizure.
- Migralepsy: This is where a migraine headache actually does trigger a seizure. It is a rare complication of migraine, and the attack will usually happen within an hour of the migraine headache. Migralepsy is also known as migraine-triggered seizure.
Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs), which are drugs used to prevent seizures, can also help to treat migraine. These medications include:
AEDs come in various forms, including tablets, liquids, capsules, or syrups. Healthcare professionals will discuss the best choice of medication with each individual.
Different types of seizures and migraine can cause different symptoms.
However, general symptoms of migraine may include:
- severe head pain
- visual disturbances
- nausea or vomiting
- sensitivity to light and sound
Symptoms of a seizure can include:
- rapid blinking
- a few seconds of staring into space
- crying out
- losing consciousness
- falling to the ground
- muscles jerking or spasming
Various types of migraine are associated with seizures. They include:
Sometimes, people with confusional migraine may experience similar symptoms to those of a seizure. They
- experience headaches
- feel tired
- feel unwell
- feel confused
- have gaps in their memory
However, there are several key differences between the two conditions. For example, the following symptoms are associated with seizures, but not with confusional migraine:
- stiff muscles
- chewing movements
Sometimes, a person may experience visual symptoms, or aura, with migraine. This can involve zigzags or other visual disturbances, such as flashing lights. Not everyone experiences a headache relating to these symptoms.
This is a rare condition where a person experiences weakness on one side of the body along with a migraine. There can also be paralysis, numbness, or tingling.
Research does not indicate a causal link between this type of migraine and seizures but may suggest that they both have similar underlying causes, such as genetic factors.
In addition to causes and symptoms, episodes of migraine and seizures may involve similar risk factors.
According to research, two-thirds of people who experience migraine and menstrual cycles will have a migraine episode around the same time as their period.
Brain or head injuries can also increase a person’s risk of migraine flare-ups and seizures.
People who experience regular migraine headaches may want to trial preventative medications. AEDs can be used to treat migraine as well as seizures.
The World Health Organization estimates that as many as
- getting at least 7–8 hours of sleep each night
- exercising regularly
- lowering stress where possible
- avoiding alcohol, tobacco, and any other substances that could be a trigger
- eating regular meals
- maintaining a moderate weight
The outlook for a person experiencing seizures will depend on what is causing the seizure. Epilepsy seizures can be fatal, but a person can also manage the condition with medication prescribed by a doctor.
Administering treatment within 30 minutes for a seizure that has lasted longer than 5 minutes may prevent death.
Migraine and seizures may occur very rarely or regularly. People with either condition should keep notes on their occurrences to provide to healthcare professionals. This way, doctors can have a full and accurate medical history and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
There is no direct, causal correlation between migraine and seizures. However, people may experience them together due to their similar symptoms, causes, and triggers.
If a person is experiencing seizures with migraine, they should seek medical advice to find the best-recommended treatment plan for their situation. Healthcare professionals can also rule out any serious underlying conditions.
More research is required to look into the link between migraine and seizures so that doctors can understand the connection better and therefore be able to improve treatment methods.