Migraine and Seizures: Are They Related?
Are migraine and seizures related? In a survey with over 14,500 Migraine Buddy users, it was revealed that the majority of the community (74%) has an existing secondary health condition in addition to their migraine. Since the human brain is often referred to as the most complex thing in the universe, it’s not surprising that neurological conditions can co-exist. For some community members, this means dealing with not one, but two of the most common neurological conditions: migraine and epilepsy.
Is there a link between migraine and epilepsy?
In short: yes. Studies have shown that migraine and epilepsy are comorbid (co-existing) neurological conditions. This means that migraine and epilepsy are often related to each other. In fact, a person with seizures disorder is twice as likely to experience migraine attacks.  But, researchers still aren’t sure exactly why.
For some people, experiencing both epilepsy and migraine may be caused by environmental factors – like a head injury. For others, the two conditions may be caused by genetic predispositions. For example, researchers have found that for people with both familial hemiplegic migraine (FHM) and epilepsy there are similar mutations in three specific genes. 
For others still, unfortunately, the cause may never be determined.
Similarities Between Migraine and Epilepsy
- Typically lifelong conditions
- Not contagious, but could be genetic
- Are episodic disorders (consisting of “attacks” or “episodes”)
- Can be preceded by aura including nausea, flashing lights and certain sensitivities
- Share common triggers such as stress, alcohol and changes in sleep
- Believed to have similar underlying factors, such as hyperexcitability in the brain
- Commonly treated by a neurologist
- Sometimes preventable by the same medication
Differences Between Migraine and Epilepsy
- Migraine is more common, affecting 1 billion people worldwide  while epilepsy affects around 50 million people worldwide. 
- A migraine attack can happen for hours to days while a seizure usually lasts a few seconds to minutes.
- More females have migraines, while both males and females are equally likely to have seizures
Can migraines cause seizures?
We know that migraines and epilepsy are more likely to occur together. However, there’s no definitive proof that a cause-and-effect relationship exists between the two.
If migraine caused epilepsy, researchers would expect to see an influx of people who begin experiencing epilepsy following their migraine onset. This is not the case. There’s an increased risk of a person experiencing epilepsy both before and after the onset of their migraine.  Because there’s no clear chronological sequence, this makes it unlikely that one condition causes the other.
However, although the two conditions may not holistically cause one another, sometimes a migraine attack may trigger a seizure. Migraine-induced seizures are extremely rare and somewhat difficult to diagnose, considering seizures and migraine attacks can be hard to distinguish from one another. These attacks are referred to by some as “migralepsy”, although this terminology has caused controversy in the medical space.  There are still more studies needed.
Can seizure medication prevent migraines?
Certain antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) may help serve as migraine and seizure medication, such as Gabapentin, Topiramate and Valproate.  If you’re experiencing both conditions, talk to your medical provider about what options are available to you. They will help determine the best option based on your types of seizure and migraine, age, lifestyle and any other existing conditions.
Dealing with epilepsy and migraine
Overall, we know migraine and epilepsy are more likely to occur together than apart. Both conditions have a lot in common, but also have noticeable differences. So far, there’s nothing to prove that one condition causes the other.
It can be difficult managing one neurological condition, let alone two. Know that you are never alone and the community is available to hear and support you! If you ever need to chat with someone, feel free to reach out to fellow migraine warriors in the chat groups available in our app.
(The above article is contributed by Brianna Gonzalez, one of our amazing #MBvolunteers)