Allergies and hay fever may increase
the number and severity of migraine headaches, according to a new study.
Researchers analysed data from
nearly 6000 migraine sufferers who filled out a questionnaire in 2008 as part
of the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study. Two-thirds of the
respondents said they had nasal or seasonal allergies, or hay fever.
Based on the findings, the study
authors concluded that those with allergies and hay fever were 33% more likely
to have more frequent migraines than those without these conditions. The report
was published in the journal Cephalalgia.
The study is one of the first to
link the frequency of migraines to irritation and inflammation of the nasal
mucus membrane caused by allergic and non-allergic triggers, according to lead
author Dr Vincent Martin. He is a professor of medicine at the University of
Cincinnati and co-director of the university's Headache and Facial Pain
"We are not sure whether the
[allergies and hay fever] causes the increased frequency of headaches or
whether the migraine attacks themselves produce symptoms of [allergies and hay
fever] in these patients," Martin said in a university news release.
"What we can say is if you have these symptoms, you are more likely to
have more frequent and disabling headaches."
Nose largely ignored
The findings could prove important
in treating migraines, according to study principal investigator Dr Richard
Lipton, co-director of the Headache Centre at Montefiore Medical Centre in New
"The nose has largely been
ignored as an important site involved in the initiation and [worsening] of
migraine headache," he said in the news release. If allergies and hay
fever worsen migraine symptoms, as the study findings suggest, treating these
nasal conditions may help relieve headache in people with both disorders, noted
Lipton. He is also a professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of
Medicine at Yeshiva University.
About 12% of people in the United
States have migraines, which are three times more common among women than men.
Allergies and hay fever affect between one-quarter to one-half of the US
population. Symptoms include a stuffy and runny nose, postnasal drip and itchy
The US National Institute of
Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about migraine.