Are Migraines Hereditary?

April 25, 2015

shutterstock_245469079In honor of National DNA Day on April 25th, we are looking at whether migraines really do run in the family. The purpose of this day is to educate people on genetics. According to UCSF Medical Center, migraines affect 35 million Americans, 18% being women and 6% men in any year. This makes migraines the most common cause of headaches in America.

According to the Mayo Clinic, 89-90% of people who suffer from migraines, report having family members who have also suffered from the disabling headache. Migraines are usually hereditary, but the type and frequency of migraines can vary between each family member. You may suffer from debilitating pain, while others may experience them on occasions, for example after drinking, commonly known as a “hangover headache.” It is difficult to track a specific genetic condition, as migraine conditions and triggers vary greatly.

A 2013 GWAS analysis compared the DNA of more than 23,000 migraine sufferers to the DNA of more than 95,000 individuals who do not suffer from this condition. The results were interesting. 2 of the 12 specific areas of the DNA associated with migraines were particularly associated only with migraines without aura. Migraines without aura are extremely painful, stopping you from your daily activities, with the chances of nausea and vomiting too. The study found this point very interesting as it was more commonly known that aura migraines (less common type of headaches) were hereditary. However the GWAS analysis findings suggest that migraines without aura can be hereditary also!

In a more recent article on, Dr. Aarno Palotie, a geneticist at the University of California, in Los Angeles, said “For the first time we have proof of an isolated genetic link to migraine.” The research consisted of analyzing the genetic make up of 50 blood samples from families who have 3 or more migraine sufferers from different generations. The study showed a third of the 430 people studied, 3 common markers on a section of chromosome four. This brings researchers one step closer to finding the gene that affects people with migraines.

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