Are Headaches and Migraines Hereditary?

Are Headaches and Migraines Hereditary?

With the holidays around the corner, many of us find ourselves dreading the added stress of family, travel, and gift-buying. It’s not uncommon to hear a friend complain that her mom is giving her “such a headache!” or even to find yourself running to the cabinet for ibuprofen after a particularly long car ride with extended family. But beyond the pains caused by a hectic season, can our parents really play a part in our headaches and migraines?

The answer to this depends on the type of migraine in question. According to a population-based study done by the Migraine Research Foundation, first-degree relatives of migraine without aura sufferers were almost 2 times as like to to develop the condition themselves and had 1.4x greater risk of experiencing aura migraine. However, first-degree relatives of aura migraine sufferers had nearly four times the risk of experiencing aura migraines themselves! Conversely, first-degree relatives of those who had no migraines had no increased risk of migraine either with or without aura.

It is difficult for science to pin down any single genetic cause behind headaches and migraines. Research has pointed to a combination of genetic mutations, lifestyle factors, and environmental effects. According to a 2013 study done by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, mutations in the casein kinase (Iδ) gene can be passed down from parent to child and can have effects on our sleep-wake cycle as well as hereditary migraine symptoms. Studies on this gene found that mutations were associated with increased pain sensitivity and abnormally dilated arteries – two phenomena seen frequently in migraine patients.

As for the lifestyle and environmental component, it makes sense that we would share our headache and migraine triggers with those closest to us. From breathing in the same air and eating the same foods to sitting in the same armchairs while we watch TV – we have a lot more in common with our families than we might realize. Many patients find success with interviewing close relatives who experience similar symptoms in order to better understand their triggers and the patterns that their migraines take over the course of their life cycle.

It might not always seem this way, but having a genetic link to migraine can actually be a helpful resource. You can share valuable family medical history and receive support from your family members who understand the condition. At Novera, it is important to us to help headache and migraine sufferers know that they are not alone in their struggles. We offer virtual consultations and evaluations to help patients around the world better understand the cause of their pain and work towards a life where they can manage their symptoms independently. Click below to request more information on seeing us virtually.

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