Pre-existing asthma may be a strong predictor of future chronic migraine attacks in individuals experiencing occasional migraine headaches, according to researchers from the University of Cincinnati (UC), Montefiore Headache Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Vedanta Research. The findings were published online in November in the journal Headache, a publication of the American Headache Society.
"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 Vincent Martin, M.D., professor of medicine in UC's division of general internal medicine, co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Program at the UC Neuroscience Institute, and lead author of the study.
Dr. Martin teamed with Richard Lipton, M.D., and Dawn Buse, Ph.D., both of Montefiore Headache Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine; and Kristina Fanning, Ph.D.; Daniel Serrano, Ph.D.; and Michael Reed, Ph.D., all from Vedanta Research, to study about 4,500 individuals who experienced episodic migraine or fewer than 15 headaches per month in 2008.
"Migraine and asthma are disorders that involve inflammation and activation of smooth muscle either in blood vessels of in the airways," said Richard Lipton, M.D., director of Montefiore Headache Center and vice chair of neurology, and the Edwin S. Lowe Chair in Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and founder of the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study. "Therefore, asthma-related inflammation may lead to migraine progression."
About 12 percent of the U.S. population experiences migraine, according to the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) Study. This condition is three times more common in women than men, including 18 percent of American women and 6 percent of American men. Individuals with chronic migraine have headaches occurring 15 or more days per month; this condition affects one percent of the U.S. population and takes a severe toll on sufferers who often miss work and social events. The World Health Organization (WHO) rates migraine as the world's seventh most disabling medical condition.
The researchers analyzed data from the AMPP Study. Study participants completed written questionnaires both in 2008 and 2009. Based on responses to the 2008 questionnaire, they were divided into two groups—one with episodic migraine and coexisting asthma and another with episodic migraine and no asthma. They were also asked about medication usage, depression and smoking status. The 2008 and 2009 questionnaires included questions about their frequency of headache, which enabled the authors to identify the participants who had progressed to chronic migraine.