Asthma sufferers have to be proactive to stay on top of their disease. Avoiding allergens, taking daily medications and packing rescue inhalers are all just activities of daily life for people with asthma. On top of dealing with the inability to breathe, asthmatics are also more likely to experience a number of other health conditions like sinus infections, gastric reflux disease, depression and even chronic migraines.
The Connection Between Asthma and Migraines
The connection between asthma and chronic migraine is notable – it is more than twice as likely that asthmatics will develop chronic migraines when compared to those without asthma. A study published just last month in the journal Headache followed 4,500 Americans and found that more than five percent of people with asthma went on to develop chronic migraine, while only 2.5% of people without asthma went on to develop chronic migraines.
Migraine and asthma are both diseases that involve inflammation of smooth muscle. Migraine headaches occur when the smooth muscle of the blood vessels in the head become inflamed. Likewise, asthma is caused by constriction of the smooth vessels in the lungs. Because of this relationship, asthma may be a strong predictor for the development of chronic migraine headaches later in life.
So what does this mean for asthmatics who already occasionally suffer from migraine headaches? This research indicates that these people with asthma may develop chronic migraine headache in the future. The relationship between asthma and migraine is not cause-and-effect, but there may be an underlying cause that contributes to comorbidity of the two conditions.
Managing Asthma and Migraine
Of the 12 percent of Americans who are impacted by migraine headaches, about one percent suffer from chronic migraine. Asthmatics may greatly benefit from working in partnership with both an asthma specialist as well as a headache specialist. An asthma sufferer may want to begin preventative migraine medications at an earlier point than a non-asthmatic in order to stop the progression to chronic migraine.
Some people describe migraine as the worst pain they’ve ever had in their life. Add the feeling of not being able to breathe when you experience an asthma attack and you’ve created the perfect storm of awful. If you’re an asthmatic who experiences migraines, it’s important to keep your migraine medication, peak flow meter and rescue inhaler available wherever you go. If you’re having a serious asthma flare-up or and your peak flow is less than 50% of your personal best, you need to call your doctor, go to the hospital or call 911.
- FamilyDoctor.org. (2014, April). Asthma action plan. Retrieved from http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/asthma/treatment/asthma-action-plan.html
- Preidt, R. (2015, December 11). Asthma linked to chronic migraines in some people. Retrieved from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_156191.html