Link between migraines and vascular conditions found by researchers

12th July 2016 by Daryll Baker0
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Migraines are a common condition which affect around a billion people worldwide, which equates to around one in seven people. Doctors, scientists and researchers struggle to pinpoint what causes migraines. While the exact cause of migraines remain unknown, the condition is believed to be the result of abnormal activity in the brain, which temporarily affects the brain’s blood vessels, chemicals and nerve signals. Debate continues around whether this debilitating neurological disorder is a vascular dysfunction or the result of neuronal dysfunction with vascular changes.

The results of a recent study uncovers some interesting new information related to the cause of migraines. According to researchers at the International Headache Genetic Consortium (IHGC), which comprises of a multi-national team from the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Europe, migraines are linked to a vascular condition, which is related to 38 different genes.

The study involved 375,000 people worldwide and is the largest migraine-related study to date. The results of the research are published in the journal Nature Genetics.

In previous migraine-related studies, 13 different genes have been associated with migraines with some scientists claiming that the migraine is a vascular condition, which is triggered by issues with the blood vessels. However, the recent International Headache Genetic Consortium research discovered 38 genes linked to migraines.

As the Jilard Health Digest notes in a report about the new migraine research:

“Not only did the researchers discover a wide variety of genes related to migraines, they found that the genes had a common link. The genes were all related to vascular and smooth muscle tissue, either in or near genes that run the vascular system or that previous research has linked to vascular disease. This evidence seems to support the theory that migraines are a vascular disease, not a neuronal disease as some had theorised.”

Having greater knowledge about the cause of migraines and that they are linked to abnormalities in blood vessels is likely to create more opportunities for the treatment of what now looks to be a vascular condition.

Those who suffer from migraines tend to experience varying levels of severity with certain treatment working for some and different treatments working for others. With more substantial knowledge on-board about the cause of this debilitating condition, scientists will be in a better position to work on finding a treatment that works for a broader range of migraine sufferers.


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Daryll Baker is a Consultant Vascular Surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital London and Clinical Lead for North Central Region Vascular Services.

He read Medicine at Oxford University and trained in Vascular Surgery in Nottingham, London and Edinburgh. He obtained his research PhD from the University of Wales.

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