Are Migraines linked with Epileptic Seizures? It’s Genetics

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If you suffer migraine symptoms, then you’re likely to experience an epileptic seizure someday. Studies linking migraines with epilepsy symptoms explain Topamax, an anti-seizure drug, is also effective for treating migraine headaches.


Migraine attacks and epileptic attacks are connected

The Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Department of Neurology released a report stating that epilepsy and migraine share a comorbid relationship.  That means that the two illnesses share common factors, including medical treatment and patient medical history.  Epilepsy doesn’t cause migraine headaches, but if you are a migraine sufferer, then your chances of experiencing an epileptic attack are higher than non-migraineurs.  Often, migraine attacks such as migraine aura are mistaken for epileptic seizures.  Such was the case when Serene Branson, CBS reporter, suffered an on-air complex migraine attack that greatly simulated an epileptic attack.

In the New England Journal of Medicine, a study on migraines and cerebral blood flow states that migraine patients may eventually experience epileptic attacks, and that symptoms of epilepsy are often worsened by the presence of migraine illness.

Approximately 14% of people diagnosed with epilepsy also suffer migraine attacks, according to a PubMed report on migraine-related seizures.  Among migraine sufferers, 6% are also epileptic.

“A better understanding of the pathophysiologic features of spreading hypoperfusion would be of obvious clinical importance, since migraine can sometimes lead to ischemic stroke and since stroke can sometimes be aggravated by or associated with the development of migraine.”


The epilepsy-migraine genetic link

According to a study conducted by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a mutant form of “chromosome 19” appears in migraine sufferers who experience ataxia (sudden episodes of muscular incoordination).  This chromosome correlates with mouse chromosome 8, which appeared in “tottering” laboratory mice that experienced similar epileptic-like seizures.

Anti-epileptic drugs as migraine treatment

Since chronic migraines share a strong link with epilepsy, it is not surprising that headache specialists and neurologists often prescribe anti-epileptic drugs for their migraine patients. One anti-seizure drug, Topamax (topiramate) is a popular migraine remedy for headache sufferers not diagnosed with epilepsy.  Topamax works by essentially freezing brain cell stimulation, providing relief for migraine patients and epileptics alike.  The side effects of continued usage of Topamax can be disturbing, symptoms such as short-term memory loss, “brain fog,” and difficulty concentrating or organizing thoughts.  (See Improve your Memory while taking Topamax for Migraines.)


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Epilepsy and migraine. [Epilepsy Behav. 2003] – PubMed – NCBI

Migraine-related seizures in an epileptic population- PubMed- NCBI

Oak Ridge National Laboratory – ORNL finds common genetic cause for epilepsy, migraine

Ataxia- Mayo Clinic

Bilateral Spreading Cerebral Hypoperfusion during Spontaneous Migraine Headache- NEJM

Medical Conditions Associated with Migraines- Epilepsy – Stroke – Anxiety – Depression – RealAge

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