What Causes Migraines?
While every person and every migraine is different, we do know what the common migraine triggers and symptoms are, like weather, food, stress, nausea and sensitivity to light and sounds, the latter actually being both a trigger and a symptom. What doctors and migraine sufferers haven’t been able to quite pinpoint yet is what causes migraines —that is until this year when a group of scientists came out with what they believe to be the answer.
Migraine Cause Study
Scientists have long debated whether migraines are caused by:
- A neurological (brain) problem or
- A vascular (blood) problem relating to circulation.
In their recently published study in Nature Genetics, scientists at the International Headache Genetics Consortium (IHGC) uncovered data that points to blood vessel problems. Specifically, constricting blood vessels in the brain are what cause migraine headaches.
Their study looked at 59,674 migraine sufferers and 316,078 people who don’t experience migraines (the controls), coming from 12 different countries [wow, that is a lot of people in this study]. Each participant took part in previous studies where their DNA or genome was scanned.
Aarno Palotie, leader of the IHGC, and his fellow researchers linked 38 specific genes to migraines—28 that had never been implicated before. These same genes are also linked to other illnesses, all of which fall into the domain of vascular disease. This fact is what made the researchers believe blood vessel problems are the key cause of migraines.
So What Does it Matter?
With doctors and scientists knowing what the main cause of migraines is, they can give more effective medication or other treatment methods to successfully treat migraines and bring better relief to migraine sufferers.
This study’s findings now gives researchers a good starting point to develop new drugs that will target the “regulation of vascular tone” and provide more successful relief for migraine sufferers.
John Zwart, another IHGC member, hopes the group’s genetic findings will be used in future clinical drug trials, where patients are divided into various genetic susceptibility groups to increase the chances of finding the best possible treatment methods for every subgroup.
The IHGC researchers credit their discovery to their large amount of samples and international collaboration, which Palotie says is needed to effectively study the genetics of complex and common diseases, such as migraines.
Like we mentioned earlier, there are many factors that can contribute to migraines, a big one being light sensitivity. If you’re someone who can’t drive on a sunny day without experiencing a pounding headache or have to leave work because of the harsh fluorescent lighting and hours staring at a computer screen, don’t feel defeated.
You (and we) know you can’t stay cooped inside your house on a nice day nor can you stop going into work. But, what you can do to control your amount of exposure to these bright lights and your susceptibility to migraines is to get yourself a pair of specially-tinted glasses. This stylish fix will have you back enjoying radiant life in no time.