Migraine and Heredity

By Tiffany

This past week, as my 4 year old said to me, “Mommy, my head and tummy hurts,” I realized she was doing the all-too-familiar flip-flopping, squirming, re-positioning, and re-adjusting that I often do when I have a migraine.

I will often move from the couch to the floor, to some awkward position in between, burying my face into the sofa with the rest of my body on the floor. Moving does not help, but neither does sitting still. When I witnessed my daughter doing this, my stomach sank with fear. I felt a deep sense of responsibility, as I wondered if she had a migraine– because if she had a migraine, chances are, she inherited this painful disorder from me. I mean, my grandmother had migraines, my mom has migraines, I have migraines, so it stands to reason that there is a pretty high probability that at least one of my daughters will end up with migraines too, unfortunately.

I considered that she may just have a virus. I hoped it was just a virus. Never did I expect I would one day be wishing my child was sick with a virus, but because I know the torment of the alternative, that was my sincere hope as I kissed her goodnight.

At 4 am she woke up crying. I saw her stumbling toward me like a drunkard, but before I was awake enough to move, she vomited ALL over me, including my face. This was early last Monday morning, the day of the eclipse. I was sure now that she must have a migraine, potentially triggered by the major astral event on our horizon.

What does a mom do at 4 am after her child pukes on her? After cleaning up the mess, I was too worried and anxious to sleep. So, I started Googling “migraine heredity,” and much to my dismay, my fears were reinforced.


Are migraines hereditary?

According to the Miami Headache Institute, this a “complex question.” Based on ongoing research into the connection between migraines and our genes, the short answer is: probably.

Since the mid-nineties, research into migraine heredity has progressed, slowly but surely. Unfortunately, migraine research is severely underfunded, with approximately $0.50 per migraine sufferer dedicated to research.

In 1995, Charing Cross and Westminster Medical School conducted a study finding that a person’s risk for migraine is significantly increased by 1.4 – 4 times simply by having a first degree relative with migraine. Similarly, according to Mayo Clinic, 89-90% of migraine sufferers report having a relative with migraine.

In 2007, a study in Archives of Neurology isolated three genes related to familial hemiplegic migraines.

In 2010, an international study found that a mutation in the KCNK18 gene inhibits the function of a protein called TRESK, causing the electrical activity of cells to be altered.

While research indicates that a genetic link in migraines is likely, it has yet to be proven definitively. However, with the advances that have already been made in the research of genetics and migraine, perhaps it won’t be long before clearer answers exist.

Funding for migraine research is desperately needed, though. If you have the ability or desire to donate to this cause, 100% of donations made to the Migraine Research Foundation go directly to migraine research. You can donate here.

As for my 4 year old, she ended up running a fever, indicating that her headache and tummy ache were likely viral. However, if she happens to have another “headache” episode, I am thankful that I will be able to recognize the signs and confident that I will be vigilant in seeking proper treatment for her as soon as possible.







Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s