Genetics And Migraine: Is Migraine Hereditary?

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Genetic studies on migraine can answer the question many of us ask: Is migraine hereditary? While there is no straightforward answer to this in many cases, this can be a sensitive topic for many migraine warriors out there. The truth is that genetics do affect the hereditary nature of migraine. This means that if you have had family members who experience migraine, there is a possibility that you may inherit migraine too.

Why Is Migraine Hereditary?

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Genes, or transporter genes, are involved in moving salts. They can influence how our nerves are activated and how they can react when stimulated.

Genetic studies have demonstrated that migraine can be hereditary, especially monogenic migraine (migraine influenced by a mutation of a single gene). An example of a monogenic migraine is familial hemiplegic migraine (FHM). Research has shown a strong correlation between familial hemiplegic migraine and mutation of a single gene[1]. Hemiplegic migraine (HM) is found in 0.01% of European populations, indicating its rarity. Familial hemiplegic migraine is usually diagnosed when there is at least one 1st or 2nd-degree member in the family who also suffers from hemiplegic migraine.

For common migraine with aura and migraine without aura, there is a higher risk of inheriting migraine. These migraine types are typically polygenic (influenced by the mutation of multiple genes) and have a heritability of 34 – 60%.

Research has shown that there are three genes, of which mutation of either gene, will cause familial hemiplegic migraine. The three genes are CACNA1A, ATP1A2, and SCN1A. These genes encode ion channels and transport proteins.

As migraine is rooted in the nervous system, genetics play a huge role in better understanding migraine. Even though familial hemiplegic migraine is rare, the possibility of inheriting it is rather high. 

Familial hemiplegic migraine is a severe form of migraine with aura. Some of the symptoms of familial hemiplegic migraine include:

Research has shown that there are three genes, of which mutation of either gene, will cause familial hemiplegic migraine. The three genes are CACNA1A, ATP1A2, and SCN1A. As migraine is rooted in the nervous system, genetics play a huge role in better understanding migraine. Even though familial hemiplegic migraine is rare, the possibility of inheriting it is rather high. 

However, it is important to note that the link between migraine and genetics may be not clearly established because migraine is affected by environmental factors too, such as stress, lack of sleep, and so on. 

What Should I Do After Knowing That Migraine Is Hereditary?

While it may be challenging to realize that migraine is hereditary, it’s helpful to focus on what you can do and control. Many migraine warriors have coped with migraine by tracking. If you have a family member who may be having frequent and painful headaches, you may want to invite them to see a neurologist or migraine doctor. Tracking has always been helpful for people to control migraine. Click here to download your very own Migraine Buddy app now!

References

[1] Sutherland, H.G., Albury, C.L. & Griffiths, L.R. Advances in genetics of migraine. J Headache Pain20, 72 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s10194-019-1017-9

Jenny from Migraine Buddy
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