Migraines are not on the usual list of symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS), but researchers know that, for many MS patients, migraines are somehow associated with this neurological disease that affects around 400,000 people in the U.S. and 2.5 million worldwide.
A recent article on the website Neurology Advisor observes that patients who have multiple sclerosis (MS) have migraine headaches at a rate that is 2-3 times more frequent than people who don’t have MS. While the link between MS and migraines is not completely understood, it is also a comorbidity that has been recognized since the 1950s. Comorbidities are other diseases that co-exist in a patient with a particular disease.
In a study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Neurology, researchers examined how other diseases affect patients with MS, more specifically, their role in MS relapse. Patients were identified with several comorbidities, including migraines.
Researchers found a supported association between MS and four comorbidities (listed in order or prevalence in the study): anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, migraines and high cholesterol. Migraines were found in 18% of study participants.
Two comorbidities — migraines and hyperlipidemia — were associated with particularly high rates of relapse during the two years of the study.
Although a clear association between MS and migraines has not been established, studies demonstrate a relapse rate of 21% to 69% in MS patients with migraine as a comorbidity. Although neuroscientists do not understand the relationship, they believe there are 3 distinct possibilities that warrant more investigation: 1) Is a migraine a predictable forerunner to MS?, 2) Do migraines and MS share the same functional changes in their development as diseases ? or 3) Is MS, with an accompanying migraine, a different type of MS altogether?
Most of the latest data is beginning to is dispel the notion of the relationship of migraine and MS as limited to comorbidity. Although more research needs to be done, researchers believe that it is important to study the way both diseases are caused and by drilling down on that data they may be able to share light on similarities of causality that may be useful in developing treatments and therapies for patients suffering from MS.