Migraines and Epilepsy - Genetic Link Demonstrated

Teri Robert @trobert Health Guide
  • It's been known for some time now that Migraine and epilepsy are often comorbid diseases, diseases that a person can have at the same time, but neither causes the other. Migraine researchers have felt that there was a link between Migraine and epilepsy, but have yet to firmly establish what that link is.


    A new study published in the journal Epilepsia indicates that there is evidence for a shared genetic susceptibility to both diseases, that having a strong family history of seizure disorders increases the odds of also having Migraine with aura.


    The Study:


    Study methods:

    • Researchers studied the prevalence of Migraine history in 730 participants in the Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project (EPGP), an ongoing study whose goal is to recruit, perform detailed phenotyping on, and collect DNA from 3,750 participants with epilepsy.
    • The 730 study participants were ages 12 and above and had non-acquired focal epilepsy (NAFE) or generalize epilepsy (GE).
    • Study participants were from 501 families who had two or more individuals with epilepsy of unknown causes.
    • Researchers "evaluated associations of migraine prevalence in enrolled subjects with a family history of seizure disorders in additional non-enrolled relatives, using generalized estimating equations to control for the non-independence of observations within families."1

    Key findings:

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    "Prevalence of a history of Migraine with aura (but not Migraine without aura only) was significantly increased in enrolled participants with two or more additional affected first-degree relatives."1

    Significance of findings:

    "These findings support the hypothesis of a shared genetic susceptibility to epilepsy and Migraine with aura."1

    Study author Dr. Melodie Winawer offered some comments:

    "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... 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."2

    Summary and Comments:


    This study could have far-reaching implications for patients with seizure disorders and patients with Migraine. It brings to mind the fact that medications originally developed for seizure disorders, such as Topamax, Depakote, Zonegran, and others, have been found to be quite effective in Migraine prevention for some patients.


    In a time when research funding is pitifully lacking, and epilepsy receives far more funding and has progressed far beyond Migraine research, it would be encouraging to see researchers in these two disease states join forces for the advancement of research and the benefit of all patients.


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    1 Winsaver, Melodie R.; Connors, Robert; EPGP Investigators. "Evidence for a shared genetic susceptibility to migraine and epilepsy." Article first published online: 7 JAN 2013. DOI: 10.1111/epi.12072


    2 Press Release, Wiley. "Genetic Link Between Epilepsy and Migraine." ScienceDaily. January 7, 2013.

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    Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape© Teri Robert, 2012.
    Last updated January 9, 2013.

Published On: January 09, 2013