Study reveals migraine headaches occur in many asthmatic patients

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published February 21, 2018

Key Takeaways

Patients with asthma may also have a high prevalence of headaches and migraines, and this may be influenced by parental history—specifically of asthma, allergies, and migraine—and smoking, according to researchers who published their results in the Turkish Thoracic Journal.

“The fact that approximately 60% of our patients had headache indicates the high frequency of headache in asthma patients. In our study, the prevalence of migraine was found to be 32.6% in asthma patients,” wrote lead author Muzaffer Onur Turan, MD, Department of Chest Diseases, Ízmir Katip Çelebi University Atatürk Training and Research Hospital, Ízmir, Turkey, and fellow authors.

They conducted the study to assess the incidence of migraine and determine whether a relationship exists between atopic disorders, parental history, and migraine in patients with asthma.

Dr. Turan and colleagues included 288 asthma outpatients diagnosed by early or late reversibility testing, which showed reversible airway obstruction. They assessed headache, atopic symptoms, and parental history in these patients.

“The presence of asthma and migraine in patients and their first-degree families was questioned. The patients were asked about whether they and their first-degree families had allergic complaints such as nasal congestion, sneezing, nasal itching, and nasal and postnasal drainage, and related responses were recorded,” noted these researchers.

A migraine-type headache diagnosis was made based on fulfillment of International Headache Society (HIS) criteria.

In all, 60.4% of patients reported headache, of whom 32.6% (n=94) had headaches meeting IHS migraine criteria; only 12 had migraine with aura. Atopic symptoms occurred in 86.8% of patients. Asthma was reported in the parental histories of 47.9% of patients, atopic symptoms in 39.6%, and migraine in 22.2%.

Upon multiple logistic regression analysis, Dr. Turan and fellow researchers found the following independent risk factors for the presence of migraine in asthmatics:

  • Parental history of asthma (42%; P=0.01)
  • Parental history of allergies (71.4%; P=0.038)
  • Parental history of migraine (80.6%; P=0.015)
  • Smoking (P=0.046)

Patients who had allergic complaints had a significantly higher incidence of headaches (65.3%; P=0.007), as did patients with a parental history of allergic symptoms (54%; P=0.002).

In all, 39% of females and 16.7% of males had migraine-type headache, and the incidence of primary headache and diagnosis of migraine were significantly higher among females than among males (P < 0.001 and P=0.002, respectively).

“In our study, the frequencies of both migraine and primary headache were found to be higher in females than in males (2.3- and 1.8-times higher, respectively),” noted the authors. “Therefore, more attention should be paid to female asthma patients in terms of the existence of migraine, and it should always be kept in mind that the possibility of migraine is higher in females.

“Therefore, in asthma patients, the following should be kept in mind: the complaint of headache should be thoroughly examined, familial history and allergic symptoms should be questioned while taking anamnesis, and attention should be paid with regard to the presence of migraine,” they concluded.

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