Should You Blame Asthma For Chronic Migraines?

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If you’re one of the 36 million Americans who have experienced even one migraine headache, you know the head-splitting misery it can bring. For an unlucky one in six who have migraine, the occasional headache can progress to a chronic condition, with migraines striking more than half the time for three months or longer.

Now a recent study suggests asthma may join the ranks of risk factors connected with that progression from episodic to chronic migraine.

Establishing a Link

A recent study sponsored by the National Headache Foundation reveals that people with asthma who also experience occasional migraines may be two times more likely to develop chronic migraines than those who don’t have asthma. Patients with severe asthma are three times more likely to progress.

“It is an interesting and significant piece of the migraine puzzle,”says Richard Kim, MD, internist and headache specialist.

Dr. Kim explains what defines chronic migraines. 

Click play to watch the video or read video transcript.

Doctors already know that depression is one of the major risk factors for the progression from occasional to chronic migraine. The good news is that it’s a risk factor that patients —with their doctors — can work to control. “This study showed that asthma increases this risk just as much as depression does,” Dr. Kim notes.

“It is an interesting and significant piece of the migraine puzzle”

He is quick to point out that the study only recognizes asthma as a risk factor. It doesn’t prove that asthma causes the progression. So if you have asthma, especially a severe form, and the occasional migraine, what can you do?

Considering Next Steps

Link Between Chronic Headache and Migraine - In Content“We cannot tell from this study whether controlling asthma symptoms would decrease the risk of transforming into chronic migraine. I think if a person has asthma, or any other risk factors for chronic migraine, each should be addressed and controlled to decrease the overall risk,” Dr. Kim says. As some doctors speculate about whether to prescribe preventive medications for migraine in people with both asthma and occasional migraine, Dr. Kim advises proceeding with caution.

“I do not think there is enough evidence to definitively recommend starting preventive medications earlier,” he says. “Medications are not without side effects.” Plus, there’s an issue of cost, especially if the medicine is not a generic.

“I think it is always important to weigh the risks and benefits before starting new medications. Definitely, if a patient has a typical indication to start a preventive medication, then we should do so, if appropriate.”

While researchers continue to probe why people with severe asthma are at greater risk for chronic migraine, err on the side of caution and see your health care provider to maintain good control of both your asthma and migraine symptoms.

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