Migraines and multiple sclerosis seem to have a common origin, enough to establish a link? Various investigations indicate that there could be, at least in some cases. Still, there is no scientific evidence that migraines eventually lead to multiple sclerosis.
Can diet trigger a migraine?
Multiple sclerosis, which is believed to affect some 55,000 people, is one of the most common diseases of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). It is a chronic inflammatory process that occurs when the immune system attacks myelin, the fatty material that insulates neurons and allows the rapid transmission of electrical signals.
When myelin is damaged, communication between the brain and other parts of the body is hindered. This interference in the transmission of nerve signals is what causes the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, such as vision problems, pain, tingling, and weakness.
When it comes to migraines, chemicals and hormones in the body are believed to play a key role in their onset. In addition to the intense pain, usually on one side of the head, they can also cause visual symptoms called auras: spots, flashing, etc. can be seen. They can also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.
Some Similarities Between Migraine and Multiple Sclerosis
In the early stages of multiple sclerosis, symptoms can be similar, even mistaken for a migraine attack. Both are chronic and consist of attacks, followed by periods of remission. But there is a difference, and that is that, in the case of migraine, the neurological symptoms last less.
On the other hand, some symptoms of the two, although they vary greatly from one person to another, can include visual problems, such as optic neuritis, similar to a migraine attack, especially with aura.
Again, the duration of these symptoms is what makes the difference (they last less in migraine). They also share the fact that relapses or attacks respond, in many cases, to triggers such as stress.
The fact that multiple sclerosis is a heterogeneous disease, with very diverse symptoms that are often associated with other disorders and that, in addition, can be transitory, makes the diagnosis a challenge. These particularities make it essential to provide detailed information on the duration and intensity of symptoms.
It is also paradoxical that when the common symptoms of multiple sclerosis are listed, migraines are not usually included in the list. ready, admits the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation (FEM). However, some research has linked that having multiple sclerosis increases the risk of certain headaches, such as migraines.
The link between migraine and multiple sclerosis
The investigations that bring closer the link between headache and multiple sclerosis are several. One of them is published in European Neurology and it shows that headaches could indeed be used as an early diagnostic symptom for multiple sclera.
The experts found a high frequency and prevalence of headache at the onset of the disease, which decreased significantly six months after diagnosis.
For those responsible for the research, treating headaches as an early symptom could “allow early treatment, which is essential to stop the progression of the disease.”
According to another investigation, this time published in the scientific journal Journal of Clinical Neuroscience, in which more than 1,500 investigations have been compared, the prevalence of migraine in patients with multiple sclerosis is 31%, compared to 12% in the general population.
In one of the last reviews and meta-analyzes performed in 2020 show that the general prevalence of migraine and tension headache among patients with multiple sclerosis is 27% and 10%, respectively. This indicates, according to experts, that it is common for migraine headaches to often occur in conjunction with multiple sclerosis.
Previous studies have found that up to half of people with multiple sclerosis who experience headaches have cortical or brainstem lesions, the review notes.
And, although according to the same review, some studies have shown that migraine occurs commonly as an initial symptom in patients with multiple sclerosis (indicating that it may be a risk factor), the researchers emphasize that the underlying mechanism does not it is clear and that, in any case, migraine could be classified as a “modest predictor” of multiple sclerosis.
But they do suggest that clinical headache screening in multiple sclerosis patients is helpful in formulating an individualized treatment plan that can alleviate the physical and mental impact of the disease.
Other studies have also indicated that there may be a possible relationship between headache and multiple sclerosis therapies. One of them shows that 80% of patients have suffered after starting treatment for the disease.
However, and despite all this research that points to a certain relationship between multiple sclerosis and migraine, there is still some debate about this relationship, which could be clearer in future research on the genetic and hormonal nature of each of these diseases.
If you don’t want to miss any of our items, subscribe to our newsletters