A strong relationship between migraines and epilepsy has long been suspected. But now it is fact, according to extensive research cited by Steven Karceski, MD in Practical Neurology Magazine.
People with epilepsy are more than twice as likely to develop migraine headaches as those without the disorder. Research showed that more than 20 percent of people with epilepsy have migraines, compared to 11 percent of the general population.
Evidence supports the coexistence of migraines with the following conditions:
* In migraine sufferers, 6% have epilepsy, more than ten times than the general population.
* In one study, people and their relatives who are diagnosed with epilepsy were found to be approximately 2.4 times more likely to have migraines than the control group.
* In another epilepsy study, about 16% of those people who had migraines also experienced epileptic seizures before, during or after a migraine.
* While most migraine sufferers do not have epilepsy and most people with epilepsy do not suffer from migraines, these findings still indicate a significant “overlap” of both conditions.
Epilepsy and migraines share common features, including the fact that both are episodic. Also, they share many common triggers. Foods such as chocolates, aged cheese, and red wine may trigger migraine headaches. Alcohol (or alcohol withdrawal) can provoke a seizure. Emotional stress, poor sleep, fatigue or flashing lights are often a trigger for both seizures and headaches.
And this migraine-epilepsy duo also share some of the same symptoms: headache, abdominal pain, awareness and EEG abnormalities. A person may have a seizure on one occasion and a classic attack of migraine on another.
Interestingly, both share common treatment options as well. The goal is to eliminate the events and prevent side effects, too. So, when a person has both epilepsy and migraines, it is logical to try to “consolidate” treatments and use one medication for both conditions.
Research shows that Depacon (Valproate) and Topamax (Topiramate) are effective in treating migraines and epilepsy. And each has FDA approval for treating them together. Depakote (Divalproex Sodium) also works for both, creating a therapeutic “two-fer.”
There are also several other anti-epileptic drugs that have also been shown to lessen migraine headaches – such as Neurontin (Gabapentin), Keppra ( Levetiracetam) and Zonegran (Zonisamide). However, the dose of AEDs in the treatment of migraines is usually lower than that used for epilepsy.
Drug-to-drug interactions may occur, potentially limiting the effectiveness of prescribed medications. Until further studies are completed, these agents must be used cautiously in people with either seizures, migraines, or both.
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Other articles of interest:
Migraine and Epilepsy: Is There a Genetic Link Between the Two?
Electronic Headband Prevents Migraines With Tiny Jolts
Melatonin May Aid in Migraine Prevention
A Sleep Gene Has A Surprising Role In Migraines
FDA: Migraine Drugs Dangerous in Pregnancy
Steven Karceski, MD, Practical Neurology, March 2007