allergies cause more severe migraines
November 25, 2013

Hay Fever And Allergies Linked To More Severe Migraines

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

Researchers have found that those who suffer from migraines and battles allergies endure a more severe form of headache then their peers. According to findings published in the journal Cephalalgia, allergies and hay fever, or rhinitis, may cause more significant migraines. Migraines are three times more common in women than men, and about 12 percent of the US population experiences this harsh headache.

Moreover, experts say that somewhere between a quarter to half of the US population experiences allergies and hay fever, which produce symptoms like stuffy and runny nose, post nasal drip and itching of the nose.

Researchers decided to study the relationship between hay fever and the frequency of migraine headaches for the first time. They analyzed data from the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) study, which asked 6,000 participants if they suffered from nasal allergies, seasonal allergies or hay fever.

The team found that rhinitis occurred in two out of three people with migraines in the study. Jonathan Bernstein, MD, professor of medicine and director of clinical research in the division of immunology, allergy and rheumatology at University of Cincinnati (UC) Academic Health Center, said the fact that rhinitis occurred in more than half of these individuals indicates that the disorders are intimately linked.

The study discovered that the odds of experiencing more frequent headaches for individuals with rhinitis and migraine was 33 percent greater than those battling migraines without rhinitis. The researchers also found that participants with mixed conditions, such as experiencing both allergic and non-allergic triggers, were 45 percent more likely to experience more frequent headaches and 60 percent more likely to endure headaches more disabling than those without rhinitis.

"We are not sure whether the rhinitis causes the increased frequency of headaches or whether the migraine attacks themselves produce symptoms of rhinitis in these patients," said Vincent Martin, MD, professor of medicine in UC's division of general internal medicine and lead author of the study. "What we can say is if you have these symptoms, you are more likely to have more frequent and disabling headaches."

Richard Lipton, MD, co-director of the Montefiore Headache Center, professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and principal investigator of the study, said the findings may have implications for treatment.

"The nose has largely been ignored as an important site involved in the initiation and exacerbation of migraine headache," Lipton explained. "If rhinitis exacerbates migraine, as these results suggest, treating rhinitis may provide an important approach to relieving headache in people with both disorders."

A previous study by the UC researchers found that migraine patients with allergic rhinitis receiving allergy shots had 52 percent fewer migraine attacks than those not receiving the shots.

"This and other research indicate that allergies and hay fever may not just represent innocent bystanders in the migraine patient," Martin said in a press release. "Clearly more research needs to be done to define their precise role."