Are the Causes of Migraines Genetic in Nature?

When considering health problems worldwide, migraine headaches may not account for huge death tolls, but their impact is nevertheless very severe. In 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) who reported on the effects and causes of migraines, described migraines and other headache disorders as a global public health calamity.

Contrary to many people’s views, migraine headaches are actually more than just unpleasant, they can be physically debilitating. The WHO also recognised in this report that migraine headache was in the top 20 conditions that were considered significantly likely to cause loss of healthy life to disability.

With recent advances in genetic medicine, there is renewed genetic research activity into the causes and effects of migraine headaches.

Historically, doctors have known that a child who’s parents both suffer from migraine is much more likely to suffer themselves.

In fact, a recent study undertaken in Denmark using sets of twins indicated that common migraine ie migraine without aura is over sixty percent genetic. It was also discovered in the same study that the causes of migraines are a multi-genomic condition, meaning that several different genes or their combinations are required for it to be inherited.

A recent Dutch study confirmed that familial hemiplegic migraine follows a simple inheritance pattern in nearly seventy five percent of cases. Bizarrely, the common migraine, despite its name was found to be much more complex in make up and susceptibility.

The Genomics Research Centre at Griffith University in Australia, has reported great progress in locating genetic loci for migraines. There have also been several multi-generational studies taken where families have been tested through a number of generations. These studies have helped researchers to identify genetic regions which are likely to increase migraine susceptibility. There is hope among researchers that eventually a genetic treatment will be found for migraines. That will be a life altering breakthrough for the millions of chronic migraine sufferers worldwide.