Asthma sufferers may have worsened migraines

Asthma sufferers may have worsened migrainesResearchers have found that pre-existing asthma may be a strong predictor for future chronic migraines in those who currently experience occasional migraine headaches. Lead author, Vincent Martin, M.D., said, “If you have asthma along with episodic or occasional migraine, then your headaches are more likely to evolve into a more disabling form known as chronic migraine.”

The researchers studied 4,500 individuals who experienced episodic migraines, or fewer than 15 migraines a month, in 2008.


Richard Lipton, M.D., co-researcher, added, “Migraine and asthma are disorders that involve inflammation and activation of smooth muscle either in blood vessels or in the airways. Therefore, asthma-related inflammation may lead to migraine progression.”

Nearly 12 percent of the American population suffer from migraines, affecting women three-times more than men. A chronic headache is categorized as having 15 or more headaches a month – this affects one percent of the population and upsets the person’s ability to attend work or social settings.

Participants answered questionnaires in 2008 and 2009 – replies from 2008 divided participants into two groups: one group with episodic migraines and coexisting asthma, and one with episodic migraines with no asthma. Questions about medication use, depression and smoking status were also asked.

After one year of follow-up, chronic migraines developed in 5.4 percent of the participants who suffered asthma and in 2.5 percent of participants without asthma. Dr. Martin explained, “In this study, persons with episodic migraine and asthma at baseline were more than twice as likely to develop chronic migraine after one year of follow-up as compared to those with episodic migraine but not asthma.”

He continued, “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.”


Theories about why migraines may develop more in asthmatics circle around the fact that asthmatics tend to have a lot of allergies, and previous research has linked allergies to headaches. Additionally, asthmatics tend to have overactive parasympathetic nervous systems, which makes them predisposed to asthma and migraine attacks. Further more, shared factors like air pollution may trigger both asthma and migraines.

The researchers suggest that doctors may wish to prescribe preventative medications for migraines earlier in those with asthma. Dr. Martin concluded: “Also, if allergies are the trigger it begs the question, Should we treat allergies more aggressively in these patients?”