New research reveals a shared genetic susceptibility to epilepsy and migraine. Findings published in Epilepsia, a journal of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE), indicate that having a strong family history of seizure disorders increases the chance of having migraine with aura (MA).
Medical evidence has established that migraine and epilepsy often co-occur in patients; this co-occurrence is called "comorbidity." Previous studies have found that people with epilepsy are substantially more likely than the general population to have migraine headache. However, it is not clear whether that comorbidity results from a shared genetic cause.
"Epilepsy and migraine are each individually influenced by genetic factors," explains lead author Dr. Melodie Winawer from Columbia University Medical Center in New York. "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."
For the present study, Dr. Winawer and colleagues analyzed data collected from participants in the Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project (EPGP)-a genetic study of epilepsy patients and families from 27 clinical centers in the U.S., Canada, Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand. The study examined one aspect of EPGP: sibling and parent-child pairs with focal epilepsy or generalized epilepsy of unknown cause. Most people with epilepsy have no family members affected with epilepsy. EPGP was designed to look at those rare families with more than one individual with epilepsy, in order to increase the chance of finding genetic causes of epilepsy.