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Are Many Migraine Patients Really Coincidentally Depressive?

Migraines often occur erratically and are immobilizing. However, migraines are not just bad headaches, states Ahn, UCSF headache specialist. They are tied to depressive neurological symptoms like nausea and vomiting. Since migraine sufferers undergo so much pain and discomfort, clearly their temperaments will also experience a downturn, making them feel depressive. Thus, it is no wonder that such a high depression rate of 46% exists among migraine patients, almost 4 times higher than that in the general population.

Despite so, journal Neurology‘s study unravels a more fundamental association, where Dr. Gisela Terwindt, neurologist at Leiden University in Netherlands, discovered that migraine sufferers tend to be genetically depressive, instead of coincidentally depressive.

Multifaceted disorders like migraines pose challenges because they can be caused by genetic, biochemical or environmental factors. Therefore, to aid clarification of possibility characteristic to heredity rather than environment, the study focused on an extended Netherlands family of 977 people and not the overall population, conducted through phone interviews.

Heavy efforts channelled into enlightening results. By weighing the varying amounts of DNA that exists mutually between a selected family member and every other member in the study, against the occurrence of both diseases, researchers were able to establish that it was genetics, and not chance, that led to the connection between suffering migraine and being depressive.

Approximately 25% of family members suffering from migraines were depressive, compared to just 12% of depressive kin without migraines. With the aid of further statistical calculations, it is concluded that migraine patients are 1.4 times more likely to experience migraine and be depressive simultaneously rather than just the former. Unfortunately, those suffering from migraine with aura (e.g. flashing lights and tunnel vision that precedes some migraine experiences) are worse off. In comparison, they are almost 2 times more likely to be depressive.

However, Dr. Ellen Schur, an internist at the University of Washington, who has also studied the link between migraines and depressiveness, dispels the idea that the study results from a single, isolated Netherlands family is representative of the general population. But her study of 1,064 pairs of female twins, published in the journal Headache in 2009, speaks otherwise. Schur discovered that among her twin sets, 44% of migraine and 58% of depressive symptoms are hereditary. A sibling will have 30% chance of getting both diseases if her twin had both too.

Numerous researchers like Schur and Terwindt have long been searching for the exact genes that may be the cause of both migraine and depressive symptoms. These essential findings can lead to new treatments for both conditions.

Nonetheless, very effectual treatments and medications (e.g. tricyclic amitriptyline) for patients suffering from both migraine pains and depressive natures, are already present on the shelves today.