As if allergies didn’t cause people enough problems, new evidence has researchers believing they can trigger asthma and chronic migraine headaches. Researchers at the University of Cincinnati and the Montefiore Headache Center in New York took a closer look at links between the two conditions and found key similarities.
Specifically, both cause inflammation in the blood vessels and/or breathing passages. This connection has researchers thinking that even if asthma doesn’t trigger a migraine (or vice versa), certain allergens can trigger both of them.
Dr. Vincent Martin, professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati says asthma can turn an existing migraine headache into a more incapacitating chronic headache. “The strength of the relationship is robust – asthma was a stronger predictor of chronic migraine than depression, which other studies have found to be one of the most potent conditions associated with the future development of chronic migraine,” he said.
These conclusions stemmed from data taken from 4,446 people around the age of 50 years old, comprised mostly of women (81 percent). Complete surveys were conducted in 2008 and 2009 by separating the participants who had asthma from those who didn’t. They were not only asked about their headache frequency (including migraines) and medication usage, but also if they were smoking or experienced any form of depression.
When the researchers checked in on the participants after a year, 5.4 percent of those with asthma experienced a chronic migraine, whereas only 2.5 percent of the non-asthma group suffered from one.
It’s possible for an excessively active parasympathetic nervous system to trigger both migraines and asthma attacks. The way in which allergies can trigger either or both conditions has Dr. Martin and the other researchers most concerned.
“If allergies are the trigger, it begs the question – should we treat allergies more aggressively in these patients,” he said.
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