Chapter 3, Episode 3: What Causes Migraine Disease?


This content has been medically reviewed by Caroline Stowe, DNP, FNP-BC, AQH.

There are multiple factors that can make a person susceptible to migraine attacks. Some of the most well-understood are genetics, hormones and head injuries.

Genes affect the way cells function in the brain, including how they communicate with each other. There are dozens of genes that are associated with migraine disease. This may explain why it is so difficult to treat and why one treatment does not work for everyone. 

Genetic mutations have been found to cause familial hemiplegic migraine, a subtype of migraine with aura, however this does not explain all cases of hemiplegic migraine.

Researchers hope that new genetic information can guide them in developing more targeted migraine treatments. 

Hormones appear to be a major contributor for many people with migraine. In childhood, males and females have the same rate of migraine. But from puberty to menopause, women are three times more likely to live with migraine than men. 

Researchers believe that fluctuations in estrogen make the brain more susceptible to migraine. Many female patients experience an increase in the number and severity of attacks around puberty and perimenopause, when estrogen fluctuations worsen. However, many find attacks decrease with pregnancy, while others find their attacks worsen or stay the same. After menopause, when hormone levels decline, attacks often decrease in severity and frequency.

Some people develop chronic headaches after experiencing a head injury, such as a concussion after a fall or an accident. Most people with a mild traumatic brain injury recover fully. Others experience headaches and other symptoms typically associated with migraine such as light and/or sound sensitivity, nausea, vomiting and/or increased head pain with activity. For these people, migraine treatments are often used.

People with migraine disease or a family history of migraine are more likely to develop a post-traumatic headache after a head injury than people without a migraine history. 

Genetics, hormones and head injuries are not the only factors that can contribute to the onset of migraine. Due to the complexity of the disease there are likely more underlying factors to be discovered. 

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This video is sponsored in part by Amgen and Biohaven.



*The contents of this video are intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. AMD does not recommend or endorse any treatment, products, or procedures mentioned. Reliance on any information provided by this content is solely at your own risk.