Is There a Link Between Migraines and Epilepsy?


Theories Behind the Relationship

One team out of Penn State has been studying the nerve cell behaviour that occurs in both migraines and seizures to unveil the link. They suggest that dozens of different phenomena in the brain could share a common link on the cellular level.

Another theory is that certain conditions early in life can lead to both epilepsy and migraines. Others think that, over time, migraines might cause mild brain damage that scars the tissue and reroutes electrical activity to produce epileptic seizures.

Recent studies have also discovered a strong genetic component between the two conditions, as seen in the findings published in the journal Epilepsia in 2013. After testing and interviewing 730 epileptic participants, the researchers found that the epileptics who experienced migraine with aura usually also had two or more close relatives who also suffered from seizure disorders.

What This Means for Treatment

Since there is now evidence to suggest a genetic link, a common neurological source, and similar patterns of symptoms, experts are more likely than ever before to arrive at the right diagnosis sooner. More importantly, prevention and treatment options could also improve dramatically.

Genetic Testing to Help With Prevention

The better the scientific community understands the genetic link concerning migraines and epilepsy, the more likely they’ll discover the causes of the conditions – and perhaps how to stop them at their root. Since two-thirds of epilepsy cases have no known cause, a genetic understanding could be the way to a clearer understanding of the entire disease.

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A Multi-Faceted Treatment Approach

The recent findings on migraine and epilepsy show that the conditions don’t stand alone – they are interconnected and intersecting, which means treatment needs to target that physiological network, not simply each individual illness.

The more that can be found out about the shared pathophysiology of epilepsy and migraine, the more likely it is that other related co-morbidities (that is, simultaneously occurring conditions) will come to light. And treatments that are designed with all of the co-occurring health problems in mind will certainly be the safest and most effective for patients.

The hope is that these new findings will lead to more attention, well-designed studies, and ultimately a better understanding of the difference between normal and abnormal brain activity. While a cure is always the end goal, a fundamental understanding of how the brain works is crucial for good treatment, and a better quality of life for anyone who suffers with migraine or epilepsy.

Living With Migraines and Epilepsy

If you suffer from migraines, epilepsy, or both, it is still possible to live a normal and fulfilling life. Once you have identified your triggers, you can actively avoid them to reduce your risk of migraines or seizures.

Eat well, get enough sleep, take any prescribed medication as advised, and avoid missing doses. And if you have any sudden changes in your symptoms, discuss them with your physician. Doing these few simple things should help you keep your symptoms under control and reduce the effects of your condition on your quality of life.

Resources

Penn State (Link seen between seizures and migraines in the brain)

Neurology Advisor (Epilepsy and Migraine: A Common Ground?)

NCBI (Migraine triggered seizures and epilepsy triggered headache and migraine attacks: a need for re-assessment)

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Migraines and Sleep

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"Could poor sleep quality be causing your migraines?" Barbara discusses the possible link between migraines and sleep issues.
by Barbara Leech on October 3, 2016
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