Yes, there is a connection between asthma and migraine. But what is the connection, and will it help us treat both?
Anyone who has had an asthma headache already suspects that there may be some kind of non-coincidental relationship between the asthma symptoms they’re most familiar with and the headache. And the connection between migraine and asthma is actually quite well known.
For example, we know that people with migraine are at a higher risk to have asthma as well. A child of a mother with migraine is more likely to develop asthma.
In short, asthma is considered to be comorbid with migraine – in other words, the two diseases tend to go together more often than would be the case if it was all random.
But why is this the case? We do have some clues. For example, both migraine and asthma are genetic. They both have triggers – often similar triggers, such as allergens and irritants in the air. People who get hay fever are more likely to have more migraine attacks. Both asthma and migraine have been connected to histamine levels, and inflammation.
A study last month upped the stakes again – it seems that pre-existing asthma increases your chances of developing chronic migraine (see Beware, asthma sufferers: Migraines may worsen). In fact, asthma may increase your risk even more than another comorbid condition often mentioned by researchers – depression.
Research definitely seems to be telling us that the link between asthma and migraine is no longer something we can ignore.
Headache specialist Dr. Roger K. Cady (founder of the Headache Care Center) offers some helpful thoughts on the connection (see Could Your Migraines Signal Uncontrolled Asthma?). In his own practice he has noticed the connection between allergies, migraine and asthma in both adults and children. He suggests that there may be inherited hypersensitivities that are involved in both conditions, or neurotransmitters which are released during an attack. His advice would be to discuss the connection with your doctor and make sure you’re treating both conditions.
For example, a beta agonist medication for asthma may actually trigger migraine, while beta blockers for migraine may actually worsen the asthma.
The good news is that if you can avoid these pitfalls, treating one condition is likely to improve the other.
To investigate the connection further, check out some of the topics below:
- Association between migraine and asthma: matched case-control study
- Migraine and Histamine: Part 1 and Part 2
- More from Dr. Cady: Sinus Headaches, Allergies, Asthma, and Migraine: More Than a Casual Relationship?
- Asthma, Lightning, and Migraine (podcast)