The Asthma-Migraine Connection

Asthma may predict future chronic migraine headaches in some patients

(RxWiki News) If you have asthma, you may be more likely to develop another common condition.

A new study from the University of Cincinnati (UC) found that asthma patients already experiencing episodic (occasional) migraines may be more than twice as likely to develop chronic migraines within one year as patients without the breathing condition.

"If you have asthma along with episodic or occasional migraine, then your headaches are more likely to evolve into a more disabling form known as chronic migraine," said lead study author Vincent Martin, MD, co-director of UC's Headache and Facial Pain Program, in a press release.

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. This can cause recurring periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing.

Migraine headaches can cause intense pain for hours or even days. This pain is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

For this study, Dr. Martin and team used data from the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study to look at 4,500 patients with episodic migraine, or fewer than 15 migraines per month. About 17 percent also had asthma.

After one year, 5.4 percent of the patients who also had asthma developed chronic migraines. Only 2.5 percent of the patients without asthma did the same.

Why the connection? Dr. Martin and colleagues chalk it up to inflammation.

"Migraine and asthma are disorders that involve inflammation and activation of smooth muscle either in blood vessels or in the airways," said study author Richard Lipton, MD, the director of Montefiore Headache Center, in a press release. "Therefore, asthma-related inflammation may lead to migraine progression."

So what can asthma patients do to avoid this progression? Dr. Martin said doctors may need to prescribe preventive medications for migraine at an earlier stage in these patients.

According to the authors, about 12 percent of the US population currently experiences migraine headaches — a condition which is almost three times more common among women than men.

This study was published online Nov. 19 in the journal Headache.

The National Headache Foundation funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
December 14, 2015