The Link between Women, Migraines, and Multiple Sclerosis

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Millions of women suffer from migraines. Millions more have multiple sclerosis. New research indicates there might be a connection between these two conditions. According to a study presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 2010 Annual Meeting migraines are seen in women with multiple sclerosis (MS) more often than in women without. Scientists, physicians and patients want to know more about the link between women, migraines, and multiple sclerosis. 

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain, spinal cord and central nervous system. It impacts more women than men and its' cause is unknown. Migraines are severe, debilitating headaches that also affect more women than men. While many migraine sufferers know what triggers their pain, the physiology behind migraine's cause remains unclear and may have different causes for different patients. 

The study that linked MS and migraines involved 116,678 women who were part of the Nurses' Health Study II, which began in 1989. Of these women, 18,000 had been diagnosed with migraine at the start of the study. The women were followed and evaluated every two years for 16 years. During that time, 375 were diagnosed with MS. Eighty-two of this subgroup of women had reported at the beginning of the study that they had been diagnosed by a doctor with migraines. Among these women, having a history of migraines was associated with a 47 percent increase in risk for developing MS. Further data revealed that a diagnosis of MS was also associated with increased risk for subsequently developing migraines.

What's causing the link between women, migraines and Multiple Sclerosis? Scientists are unclear and say that further research is needed to understand the causes of both disorders as well as any connection between them. 

Should Migraine Sufferers Worry? 

Not at all, say scientists. Ninety-nine percent of women who have migraines will never develop multiple sclerosis. So far, research indicates only a casual connection between these two disorders. It's not clear if migraines slightly increase chances for developing MS or if they are early symptoms of MS. What this research does indicate is that the vast majority of women with migraines will never develop MS.

The primary symptoms associated with migraine are severe headache, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and sometimes vomiting. MS is associated with an extensive list of complicated symptoms affecting many different body systems. Talk to your doctor about your risks for developing MS, but rest assured, your migraines are most likely the worst of your health problems.

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American Academy of Neurologists

62nd Annual Meeting Press Release

Migraine More Common in Women With Multiple Sclerosis

ScienceDaily (Feb. 17, 2010)