A new study claims that a family history of seizures could increase an individual’s chances of getting severe migraines due to genetic susceptibility.
Scientists from Columbia University, New York, believe their findings could means there is a genetic link between what causes epilepsy and migraines.
The study was published in Epilepsia, a journal of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE).
Researchers studied 501 families containing two or more close relatives with epilepsy, which brought the participant number to 730.
They found that people with three or more close relatives with a seizure disorder were more than twice as likely to experience ‘migraine with aura’ — i.e symptoms, such as blind spots, numbness of the face or flashing lights, occurring prior to the headache — than patients from families with less or no seizure history, BBC News reports.
Although previous studies have shown that people with epilepsy are substantially more likely than the most to suffer from migraine headaches, it was not clear whether that was due to a shared genetic cause.
The new study suggests that the stronger the genetic effect on epilepsy in a family, the higher the incidence of ‘migraine with aura.’ This result is evidence that a gene or genes exist that causes both epilepsy and migraine.
Dr. Melodie Winawer from Columbia University Medical Center in New York, who led the study, said:
“Epilepsy and migraine are each individually influenced by genetic factors. Our study is the first to confirm a shared genetic susceptibility to epilepsy and migraine in a large population of patients with common forms of epilepsy.”
The volunteers in the present Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project (EPGP) study came from patients and families from 27 clinical centers in the US, Canada, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand, in order to in order to increase the chance of finding genetic causes of epilepsy, said Health24.
Simon Wigglesworth, deputy chief executive at Epilepsy Action, said the research could help develop “more targeted treatments.”
Dr. Winawer agrees:
“Our study demonstrates a strong genetic basis for migraine and epilepsy, because the rate of migraine is increased only in people who have close (rather than distant) relatives with epilepsy and only when three or more family members are affected.”
“Further investigation of the genetics of groups of comorbid disorders and epilepsy will help to improve the diagnosis and treatment of these comorbidities, and enhance the quality of life for those with epilepsy.”