Migraine and other common disorders
There are many disorders or illnesses that have been associated with migraine. Sometimes there is an association between migraine and other disorders or illnesses because of similar underlying roots to the disorders, other times one comes before the other. Just because two illness or disorders are related does not mean that every person who has one will necessarily get the other. It does mean that a person who has migraines is more likely to also have one or more of the disorders listed below. If you are concerned about a particular related disorder, we encourage you to talk to your doctor about it so that they can help you evaluate your child’s risk and help manage any current disorders and when possible work to try to prevent future complications. Here are some common disorders and illnesses connected with migraine.
Cardiovascular disorders are disorders of the heart and circulatory system. The connection between cardiovascular disorders and migraines seems to be related to similar underlying roots of the disorders as both disorders have a vascular component. Cardiovascular disorders are a greater risk for adults with migraine than children with migraine but it is something to be aware of as your child ages and early prevention is the best way to avoid negative outcomes.
Some common associations include:
Stroke – Stroke is more common in people who have migraine with aura, than people who have migraine without aura or people who do not get migraines. The link between stroke and migraine is very strong and many studies have shown that people who have migraines are also more likely to have a stroke. 1
High blood pressure- Right now, high blood pressure may be more common in people with migraine but it is unclear. Some studies have found the two to be connected and others have not. 1
Coronary artery disease – Coronary artery disease includes both heart-related chest pain (angina) and heart attack (myocardial infarction). Coronary artery disease is more common in women with migraine with aura. A very large study, of over 12000 participants, found that chest pain was more common in people with migraine but that heart attack was not. 1
It is likely that the relationship between mental health and migraine is a result of the burden that people with migraine face but in some cases, it seems to be that different mental health issues make migraine more likely. Some mental health issues related to migraine are:
Depression – Based on several studies it seems to be that people with depression or who have had depression are more likely to have migraine and more likely to continue to have migraine as they age. In this case, depression appears to come before migraine. 1
Anxiety – Anxiety disorders, in general, seem to be linked to migraine but specifically panic disorder (a disorder where a person has frequent panic attacks), generalized anxiety, agoraphobia (a fear of going outside) and social phobia. One thing to note is that in children with anxiety are more likely to get migraines and then people who experience anxiety as adults. 1
Bipolar disorder – a few studies have looked at the relationship between bipolar disorder and migraine, they found that people with migraine are more likely to have bipolar disorder.
Suicidal thoughts and attempt – One alarming connection with migraine is thoughts of suicide and attempt. Thoughts of suicide are only linked to migraine with aura, this seems to be particularly an issue for adolescents and teenagers with migraine and other headache disorders. The number of headache days an adolescent or teenager had per month seems to increase the likelihood of suicide ideation. 1
Restless legs syndrome
Restless leg syndrome is a disorder where a person feels a strong, uncomfortable urge to kick their legs, particularly at night. Several studies have found that people with migraine and other headache disorders are more likely to have restless leg syndrome. 1
The relationship between migraine and obesity isn’t clear-cut. Some studies have found a connection between the two but others have not. Why there might be a connection between obesity and migraine remains unclear. 1
The link between migraine and epilepsy is controversial in research. There is a theory that the underlying brain circuitry of both disorders might cause a connection between the two. In both epilepsy and migraine there are issues with the excitability of the brain, sometimes the brain overreacts to something in the environment and that results in either a migraine or an epileptic seizure, depending on the disorder. Some studies have suggested that the link between epilepsy and migraine might be genetic. 1
Chronic pain disorders
Migraine is considered a type of chronic pain and as such makes a person who experiences migraines susceptible to other chronic pain disorders. Headache frequency seems to be most important in determining if other chronic pain disorders are likely to happen. 1
In one study 84% of people who had chronic fatigue syndrome also had migraines. The authors suggested that migraines might contribute to chronic fatigue syndrome. 2
Three studies have found that narcolepsy and migraine seem to be associated. In this case, it seems to be that people with migraine are more likely to later get narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder and people who have narcolepsy experience excessive sleepiness in the daytime and also have uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep at any time of day and during any activity. 1
Some studies have found that children and teens with migraine, compared to people who do not get migraines, have more complaints regarding their memory and ability to pay attention. 3 Adults with migraine also report difficulties in these areas. 4
Autoimmune disorders are disorders where a person’s immune system becomes overactive and starts attacking the body’s own cells because the immune system thinks that the body’s cells are hostile invaders. Children with migraines are more likely to also have an autoimmune disorder. People with migraine are more likely to experience the following disorders according to a limited number of studies.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Lupus (systemic lupus erthematosus)
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call the number below.
In Canada the Canadian Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS)
Phone: toll-free 1-833-456-4566 Available 24/7
Text: 45645 Available 5pm-1am ET
Chat: crisisservicescanada.ca Available 5pm-1am ET
For all other countries here is a link to a list of suicide hotlines throughout the world.
Original list of associated conditions adapted from Comorbidities of Migraine by Wang et al. (2010)
1. Wang, S.-J., Chen, P.-K. & Fuh, J.-L. Comorbidities of Migraine. Front. Neurol. 1, (2010).
2. Ravindran, M. K., Zheng, Y., Timbol, C., Merck, S. J. & Baraniuk, J. N. Migraine headaches in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS): Comparison of two prospective cross-sectional studies. BMC Neurol. 11, 30 (2011).
3. Costa-Silva, M. A., Prado, A. C. de A., de Souza, L. C., Gomez, R. S. & Teixeira, A. L. Cognitive functioning in adolescents with migraine. Dement. Neuropsychol. 10, 47–51 (2016).
4. de Araújo, C. M., Barbosa, I. G., Lemos, S. M. A., Domingues, R. B. & Teixeira, A. L. Cognitive impairment in migraine: A systematic review. Dement. Neuropsychol. 6, 74–79 (2012).