Are Migraines Genetic? It’s a common question.  Migraine sufferers have been the subject of scientific studies for decades.

So far, science has determined that a defect or mutation in several genes leads to migraine susceptibility.

But genetic mutations don’t create migraines; they make the body more likely to respond negatively to migraine triggers.  Your genes load the gun, it’s your environment that pulls the trigger.

Family Ties

genes migraines genetics

genetics and migraines

Like many other diseases, migraines run in the family. Migraineurs usually have a family history of chronic migraines. Parents, siblings, and relatives may also suffer from migraines. Let’s look at some familial migraine facts:

  • More than 70% of all migraineurs have a family history of migraine.
  • Not all migraineurs experience aura symptoms, but their strong prevalence in familial migraine suggests a link between genetics, environment, and migraines.
  • You can develop migraines even if nobody else in your family has ever had them.

Genome-Wide Association Study

Scientists are probing the DNA of migraineurs and comparing it to non-migraineur DNA to understand the connection between migraines and genetic mutations. Researchers are looking for a specific DNA sequence commonly found in migraine sufferers.

In one Genome study, researchers tested tissue from the North American Brain Expression Consortium and found genes in the cerebellum and frontal cortex that are associated with migraine susceptibility. In total, scientists found 12 loci that are linked to migraines. Loci are the fixed locations of a gene on a chromosome.

The Role of the Your Nerves

The nervous system has many parts, including:

  • Brain
  • Spinal cord
  • A network of nerves that react to stimuli by sending impulses through the body.

When nerve endings react negatively to stimuli, it creates the perfect environment for migraines.

What Does This Mean for You?

Although scientists have made quite a bit of headway in migraine research, there still remains quite a bit of work to be done. Right now, we know there is a link between specific genes and migraine attacks.

Stimuli

Keep in mind that stimuli are most often environmental factors. Your environment is made up of:

  • Sights
  • Sounds
  • Tastes
  • Smells
  • Textures

What can be controlled?

These are all things you can control. You can take an active role in managing migraines by working on controlling your environment more. I know, there are some things can’t be controlled, like the weather.  Barometric pressures, for instance, can’t be avoided, but you can learn ways to cope with the weather and pressure changes.

While genes play a big role in some types of migraines and symptoms, they are not the cause of your migraines. It’s vital to remember, your environment is a primary migraine attack trigger.  Keep in mind the following:

  • Poor diet is a major trigger for most migraineurs. Implementing an elimination diet and taking certain supplements or vitamins is a way you can control what goes into your body.
  • Stress is the monster that just won’t die; it tags along for the ride to nearly every event of our lives; however, prolonged exposure to stress is a problem. Daily exercise is the best way to relieve stress, not to mention keep your body healthy.

Genetics

Genetics are important when it comes to finding the proper treatment regimen for a migraineur; however, not every migraine is familial and not every person can or should be treated the same way.  The most important risk factor for migraines is your environment, so start at the top.  Identify your food and stress triggers first; and always remember, just because you have a genetic predisposition towards something, it does not mean that gene is active and dominant.

Sources:

  1. Migraine Trust
  2. Wikpedia Genetics of Migraine
  3. NIH Familial Migraine
  4. Excedrin Are Migraines Hereditary
  5. NCBI Migraines