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HeadWay, Issue #087 -- When Migraine is Not Alone
April 21, 2011

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In this month's issue:

When Migraine is Not Alone

Topamax Recall

Say what?!  Serotonergic

When Migraine is Not Alone

If only life were simple.  You know, when you hear a strange noise in your car, you take it to the mechanic and he/she hears the same noise and knows what it is.  Or you feel unwell, you go to the doctor, and the first test shows exactly what's wrong.

Or wouldn't it be nice if you only had one illness at a time?  Simple, obvious, with a standard treatment... if only life were this simple.

The reality is, you go to the mechanic and the noise is gone.  The test at the lab says you're healthy (when you feel terrible), and ... migraine and chronic headache and cluster rarely show up on their own.

Diseases and conditions that tend to go together are called comorbid (or co-morbid).  And there are a host of them that go along with migraine, cluster, and headache disorders.  Let's briefly talk about a few of them, then discuss the implications.

(Note that for many of these I specifically mention migraine, but often the case is similar with chronic daily headache, cluster, etc)
  • Epilepsy:  People with migraine are at least twice as likely to have epilepsy as the general population.  One study suggested that children with migraine are 3.7x more likely to develop epilepsy.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome:  Does neurological sensitivity relate to IBS as well as migraine?  One researcher thinks this may be the case.
  • Depression and Anxiety:  Not depression because you have migraine, but depression as a coexitent condition.  These are two of the most common.  Recent research suggests a genetic link.
  • Heart/Cardiovascular Disease/Stroke/Hypertension:  Both men and women with migraine have increased risk of these types of diseases.  Here are some important things to remember.
  • Fibromyalgia:  It's very common for those with fibromyalgia to have migraine as well.  We talked about this recently here.
  • Hayfever, Asthma and Bronchitis:  A study of over 50,000 people suggested that headache disorders and migraine may be linked to these issues.
  • Many more:  To see others and discussion in the comments, read here.
What this means and doesn't mean...
This does not mean that:
  • Everyone with a migraine or headache disorder will have one/all of the above.
  • It does not mean that one causes the other.  It could be that a chemical change in the body due to one could trigger another, that they both have a common cause, etc.
  • That treating one condition will take care of the other (see below).
What this does mean? - here are the key things you need to know:
  • Not treating one condition may increase your chances of getting the other, or of having worse symptoms.
  • Quite often there are treatments common to both (for example, some treatments for fibromyalgia are also helpful for migraine).
  • The fact that you have two or more conditions may give us clues about which treatment will work best for you.
  • It's quite possible to have several comorbid conditions.
  • This is not unusual - many people have to deal with two or in many cases several of these conditions at the same time.  You're not alone.
  • Treating one condition may clear up the other, or at least minimize the symptoms.
And finally, the bottom line.  Why is it so important to be aware of this?  What can you do now that you know this?

  1. Watch for symptoms of other conditions.  No, don't be paranoid and start assuming you have a serious disease anytime you have a hint of a symptom.  But do learn about the above conditions and be aware of the risk.
  2. Be sure your doctor knows if you have any of the above conditions.  She may be able to give you treatments that will help with both, or avoid medications that can make symptoms of another condition worse.
  3. Do look for treatment for each of these issues.  Ignoring one may make matters worse in another.  It's better to look at the whole picture than to just try to treat one issue at a time.
  4. Go here and join the discussion, so that others will know they're not alone.

  5. Topamax Recall

    There has been a Topamax recall of medication sold in the USA and Puerto Rico.   If you take Topamax, you should visit the recall site right away to see if the bottles you have are included.

    The company voluntarily issued the recall after consumer complaints of a "musty" odor.  The bottles will be investigated for TBA contamination.

    For more information, read Topamax Recall.

    Say what?!  Serotonergic

    Disfunctions in the serotonergic system are factors in both migraine patients and fibromyalgia patients.  But what are we talking about here?  Well, anything serotonergic (or serotoninergic) has to do with serotonin.  A serotonergic system, therefore, can liberate or be activated by serotonin.

    Researchers have often related issues with serotonin with migraine.  This neurotransmitter is influenced by most migraine medication.  It's also mostly found in the intestine, leading many researchers to further investigate migraine's links with the gut.

    Thanks for reading!  Remember, if you have feedback or ideas for future issues, visit the HeadWay MailRoom.  Your password is nomoache.
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