Female Migraine Sufferers Also At Increased Risk Of Depression
February 23, 2012

Female Migraine Sufferers Also At Increased Risk Of Depression

A new study reported on this week suggests that women who currently suffer or have suffered migraines in the past are at an increased risk for developing depression compared to women who have never had migraine, reports Matt McMillen for Health.com.

For the study, to be released in April at the American Academy of Neurology's 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans, researchers classified 36,154 women without depression and had provided information about migraine. Women were classified as either having active migraine with aura, active migraine without aura, past history of migraine (but not within the last year) or no history of migraine. Women also provided information about diagnoses of depression.

A total of 6,456 women had current or past migraine and after an average 14 years of follow-up, 3,971 of the women developed depression.

Middle-aged women were found to be roughly 40 percent more likely to become diagnosed with depression if they experience migraine headaches, the study suggested. Also, their risk of depression appears to stay elevated even if the migraines ceased. Women whose migraines had not troubled them within the past year were just as likely to become depressed as women who were still enduring the sometimes crippling headaches, the study found.

Lead author Tobias Kurth, M.D., an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women´s Hospital in Boston told McMillen: “For women at least, migraine is a risk factor for depression. But there´s no good biological reason why the link would not apply to men.”

“If you have a chronic intermittent pain condition, you may be more likely to develop depressive symptoms or even depression because you´re so bothered by the pain. And it´s also possible the conditions share similar pathophysiological features in the brain.”

Dr. Joel Saper, director of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute, explained how the study confirms a long-suspected link between migraines and depression. “They can intermingle with each other, and they can masquerade each other,” Saper told Katie Moisse for ABC News, adding that both conditions have genetic roots. “And having one makes the other one worse.”

Previous studies have found people with depression are more likely to get migraines, suggesting the risk goes both ways. “It emphasizes the importance of treating both conditions at the same time,” said Saper. “Sometimes we can treat both with the same medication.”

So why are women suffering this more than men? Saper attributes the link to fluctuations in estrogen. “Estrogen makes both of these worse,” he said, describing the headaches and mood changes often triggered by the menstrual cycle.

“Women are more prone to depression and more prone to migraines, and women who take oral contraceptives are often worse off,” reports Moisse.


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