Have Asthma? Bad News — Study Says You’ll Probably Get Chronic Migraines Someday, Too

If you’re an asthma sufferer, a new study has discovered some bad news — you’re likely to be wracked with increasingly worse and chronic migraines.

In fact, the discouraging research found that people with asthma are twice as likely as those without it to develop chronic migraines attacks over time.

“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 Dr. Vincent Martin from the University of Cincinnati, which conducted the study.

It all began with a simple and logical assumption about the two illnesses, United Press International reported. Both conditions are caused by inflammation. In one case, the airway is inflamed, and in the other it’s the blood vessels.

The idea isn’t that one causes the other, but rather than the same instigator is causing them, namely allergens. And according to Medical Daily, the conditions may be caused by the same genetic predisposition.

Asthma, migraines may be linked, says study [Photo By xshot/Shutterstock]Those who suffer headaches are believed to have inherited a sensitive nervous system that responds easily to environmental changes. Similarly, asthma is also caused by the environment. This overactive parasympathetic nervous system could led to the development of one or both conditions, and both are connected to allergies.

As UPI put it, people who have asthma most likely have allergies, and those who have allergies are often wracked with migraines.

With those connections in place, researchers at the University of Cincinnati, who performed the study, theorized that “asthma-related inflammation may lead to migraine progression.”

These findings effect millions of Americans. About 12 percent of the population suffers from frequent severe headaches, most of them women — that’s about 1 percent of the population. Headaches are considered chronic if suffered 15 or more days per month. In addition, another 7 percent of Americans have the respiratory condition.

Researchers determined the link between the two illnesses by examining 4,500 participants, who reported having less than 15 migraines a month in 2008 — the mean age was 50, and most of them were women. They were split into two groups — one group had asthma and the other didn’t. Both filled out two surveys — the second a follow-up in 2009 — about their health, medicine, depression, and smoking.

Asthma, migraines may be linked, says study [Photo By parinyabinsuk/Shutterstock]In the 2009 survey, the study found that migraines developed in 5.4 percent of people in the asthma group and only 2.5 percent in the other.

“The strength of the relationship is robust — (the illness) was a stronger predictor of chronic migraines than depression, which other studies have found to be one of the most potent conditions associated with the future development,” Dr. Martin added.

If this study sounds rather doom and gloom, there is a ray of hope — if people with the respiratory condition reduce their risk of an attack, it could also lessen their chance of getting a splitting headache. And in light of the study results and the allergy connection between the two conditions, Dr. Martin was inspired to wonder that if allergies trigger both, perhaps doctors should treat these people more aggressively.

That news is good for those who suffer severe headaches, because so far there is no definite trigger. Episodes can be attributed variously to caffeine, bright lights, hormones, food, or lack of sleep, according to the Migraine Trust.

And unfortunately, episode frequency increases over time for some long-time sufferers. The only treatment is painkillers and an awareness of triggers and resulting lifestyle changes.

[Photo By Borysevych.com/Shutterstock]