Allergies can be a daily nuisance ranging from mild to severe, but did you know that migraine sufferers who also suffer from allergies experience a more severe level of migraine than those people who have migraines without allergy? It turns out migraines and allergies may be related.

A study published in the November 25, 2013 edition of the online journal Cephalalgia tied these 2 conditions together for the 1st time. Allergies, also called allergic rhinitis, are a condition that causes irritation and inflammation in the body. Migraines are also associated with inflammation of the blood vessels. Vincent Martin, MD is a professor of medicine and a co-director of the University of Cincinnati’s Headache and Facial Pain Program. He writes:

“We are not sure whether the rhinitis causes the increased frequency of headaches or whether the migraine attacks themselves produce symptoms of rhinitis in these patients,” Martin says. “What we can say is if you have these symptoms, you are more likely to have more frequent and disabling headaches.”

The research team examined data from a 2008 questionnaire sent out by the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) Study that was returned by over 6,000 migraine sufferers. The survey asked if respondents suffered from allergies, and which type: nasal, seasonal, or hayfever. Rhinitis occurred in over half of the migraine sufferers, and this increased the odds of experiencing more frequent migraines by 33%. Those odds increased to 45% if the rhinitis was “mixed”; that is, if the allergies were triggered by both an allergic response to things like pollen, dogs, or cats, and a non-allergic response to things like cigarette smoke and weather.

This study builds on findings from a previous study that used allergy shots as a treatment for allergy that also helped with migraine pain.

Those patients receiving allergy shots had 52% fewer migraines than patients who did not receive the shots. Richard M. Lipton, MD, co-director of the Montefiore Headache Center, professor of neurology at Einstein and principal investigator of the study explains the potential for treatment options like this:

“The nose has largely been ignored as an important site involved in the initiation and exacerbation of migraine headache. If rhinitis exacerbates migraine, as these results suggest, treating rhinitis may provide an important approach to relieving headache in people with both disorders.”

Do you suffer from migraines and allergies? If so, do you notice an increase in your migraines during allergy attacks?

Image by Jim Lukach via Flickr


Weekly updates on conditions, treatments, and news about everything happening inside pain medicine.

You have Successfully Subscribed!