Updated 18 April 2013

Colic linked to childhood migraines

Children who were colicky as infants are more likely to suffer from migraines as they get older, a new European study hints.

Children who were colicky as infants are more likely to suffer from migraines as they get older, a new European study hints. Researchers found over 70% of kids and teens who came to French and Italian emergency rooms with migraines had cried excessively as babies, compared about one quarter of those who showed up with minor trauma.

"This study is another piece of evidence suggesting that infant colic may be an early manifestation of migraine," said Dr Amy Gelfand, a child neurologist from the University of California, San Francisco Headache Center. She said there are now four studies pointing in the same direction, showing that many kids with migraines were colicky babies and that moms who suffer from migraines are more likely to have a baby with colic.

That suggests there may be an underlying genetic predisposition to both colic and migraine, said Gelfand, who wasn't involved in the new research. For their new study, Dr Luigi Titomanlio from Paris Diderot University and his colleagues surveyed parents and checked medical records belonging to kids age six through 18 who came to one of three ERs in 2012.

How the study was done

In all, their study included 208 youth with migraines, 471 with minor, non-headache trauma and 120 with headaches that didn't qualify as migraines. Researchers found kids and teens that came to the ER for migraines were between six and seven times more likely to have been colicky babies than those arriving with trauma.

However, youth with non-migraine headaches were no more likely to have had colic as infants than the no-headache trauma group, they reported Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association. Close to one in ten kids and younger teens gets migraines. The attacks are brought on by inflammation around vessels in the brain, Titomanlio said - and it could be the same problems cause pain in babies, leading to excessive crying.

Alternatively, Gelfand said people who suffer migraines are extra sensitive to light and sound, even between attacks, and that sensitivity might start early in predisposed infants."All the new lights, new sounds, new touches and smells that they're encountering may just be more overwhelming for a baby with migraine genetics," she said.

Both researchers agreed what's missing is a long-term study that starts with babies, some of whom are colicky and some not, and follows them through childhood to see who goes on to develop migraines. "Our study will not change the current approach to colic," Titomanlio said.

Stabilising sleep schedule

However, if the two conditions do prove to be closely linked, that knowledge could help guide treatment of colicky babies, Gelfand suggested. "It opens up an area where we can begin to think about treatments for colic more similar to treatments for migraine," agreed Dr Phyllis Zee, a neurologist from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, who co-wrote an editorial published with the study.

That doesn't have to be medication, she said, and could include stabilising an infant's sleeping schedule, since sleep disruptions are known to trigger migraines. For babies, that means making sure they get exposure to light during the day and keeping them in a dark place at night, Zee added. Still, she told Reuters Health, "There's a lot more work that needs to be done regarding what could be similar between these two disorders."




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