Epilepsy Talk

Epilepsy & Migraines — Kissing Cousins | March 18, 2019

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.

The International Headache Society (IHS) criteria divides headache disorders into two main groups, with similarities to groups of epilepsies:

Secondary headaches, symptomatic of an underlying condition such as trauma or a mass lesion. 

This group is analogous to the symptomatic epilepsies.

Primary headaches, with no identifiable underlying cause. 

This group includes migraine, tension-type headache, cluster headache, and a number of rare disorders; it is analogous to the idiopathic epilepsies.

People with epilepsy are more than twice as likely to develop migraine headaches as those without the disorder.

And research has shown 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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Steven Karceski, MD, Practical Neurology, March 2007





  1. I remember in the 1970’s I was having petit mals about every day, and my father was at least weekly getting a severe migraine headache. So he starts seeing my neurologist for HIS HEADACHES. he was told the following.. Do not eat foods with NITRATES & NITRITES in them. HEY I WAS EATING THOSE THINGS,, & I was having petit mal seizures. So when asked that same neurologist in my dads visit with him, & mine also, BOTH TIMES we get told that the 2 cases are comparing apples to oranges, as 1 has nothing to do with the other. THEN was when I came up with the saying THE HUMAN BRAIN NEVER LIES but DOCTORS DO, and that still hold true 45 years later. Now in 2019 my brain is 45 years older, then when my father got RELIEF from LESS to NO HEADACHES from not having the deli foods, pork meats, chocolate & other foods, yet the MSG being saturated in the foods then in 1960’s & 70’s were nothing like it is today in 2019. So YEAH,,, THERE IS a link & a connection between having the headaches & the seizures, yet NOBODY CARES OR DARES to talk about the facts that the medical & drug world never will say 1 word against these food & drug chemical & toxin makers, that are killing brain neurons & brain cells 365 days a year, +1 more day on leap years in 2020, 2024 & etc…IT’s TIME THAT MORE THAN I SPEAKS OUT ABOUT THE LIES & THE TRUTHS THAT NEVER GETS TOLD TO ANY OF US WHO HAVE SEIZURES OR HEADACHES, as my dad did believe as I did when he started hearing words from my neurologist telling him what I said were my problems back then, and yet as he seen 20 years later that THE PETIT MALS were not serious to live with,, like REALLY ? until later I stared getting MORE GRAND MALS, then MORE PEOPLE started to tune in what I was saying for the past 30 years. All to say & ask,, Should 1 person have to have their seizure condition get worse in a 25 + year span, before any person may think about believing what someone is saying before their condition & life gets taken seriously by doctors or anyone else who believes we do not know what we are talking about ? All I know is that God knows & that’s all that maters if the rest of this world could care less what people more than me are having to suffer with every day we inhale & exhale. 1 MISTAKE will create a possible migraine, headache, seizure activity or a GRAND MAL seizure, but that is just me & a few others who knows that, when we experience it, yet of others do not, then OUR BRAIN has something else wrong with it, if others do not always have the same or similar affects from the drug & food chemical world bythe makers of MSG, ASPARTAME, NITRITES & NITRATES we consume daily, & many of these neurological drugs have those things in them too. Wonder why KEPPRA is so dangerous to anyone who takes it ? MAGNESIUM STEARATE is just 1 reason why headaches & seizures happen. If that was not in the drug and many others, all AED’s & neuro drugs alike would be better to take. Then there is ALUMINUM LAKE, GUMS, ISOLATES, toxic vegetable & soy oils & many other things that I can type, I’m tired now.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by C D — March 18, 2019 @ 9:24 AM

  2. Another therapeutic “two-fer” is going on some form of the ketogenic diet. Cures both seizures and migraines.
    C D is right about all the additive nonsense in modern “foods” and, while this was not the focus of the post, it does provide more evidence that migraines and seizures are closely related. The same MSG laden Chinese takeout that would give a lot of people a migraine, would give me a seizure.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by paleobird — March 18, 2019 @ 2:26 PM

  3. Goodevening Phylis 😊. I have actually requested to see if it would be possible to see if I can please sit with a dietitian to help me come up with different meal plans for my husband (who’s diabetic with high blood pressure) and myself (an epileptic) to see if I would be able to take cooking classes to be able to help us be able to repare meals that are good for both of us at the same time.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Kathy S.B — March 20, 2019 @ 12:43 AM

  4. Hey, YOU said it, not ME!!! 🙂


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — March 20, 2019 @ 4:20 PM

  5. question-interesting how epileptics are deprived from being able to drive, yet I know countless people who have migraines and still drive their cars…………….

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Karen — March 22, 2019 @ 6:53 PM

  6. Is there any way of getting rid of migraine completely?

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by Mohmy — May 8, 2019 @ 8:03 PM

  7. Ask your neurologist about it and see if it’s for you.


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 9, 2019 @ 12:51 PM

  8. FDA approves novel preventive treatment for migraines — Aimovig

    NEWS: Three large clinical trials have shown that Aimovig makes a significant impact on migraines by reducing the average number of monthly migraine days in people with both episodic and chronic migraine.

    For some people, the number of monthly migraine days was cut in half or more.



    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — May 9, 2019 @ 1:40 PM

  9. The migraines are excruciatingly painful. For people who have Epilepsy but are spared from the postictal migraines, you are very blessed.

    Liked by 1 person

    Comment by ragnarsbhut — June 27, 2021 @ 11:35 AM

  10. OMG! 😦


    Comment by Phylis Feiner Johnson — June 27, 2021 @ 12:08 PM

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    About the author

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    Phylis Feiner Johnson

    I've been a professional copywriter for over 35 years. I also had epilepsy for decades. My mission is advocacy; to increase education, awareness and funding for epilepsy research. Together, we can make a huge difference. If not changing the world, at least helping each other, with wisdom, compassion and sharing.

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