August 30th, 2010

Migraine news

Today I saw that “migraine” was one of the most commonly searched terms on Google, and I wondered why. Lo and behold, it seems that a gene connected with the condition has been discovered by researchers in Europe, giving hope that it may lead to new and more effective treatment.

As a migraineur myself, I have a bit of a personal interest. My migraines (like my mother’s before me, alas) are usually triggered by foods, especially my beloved chocolate, and peanuts; slip me a Reese’s peanut butter cup and you’d just about do me in.

My first migraine occurred at the age of ten, at summer camp. I didn’t know what it was, and I suffered mostly in silence. Shortly afterward my migraines went into hiding, only to return with a vengeance in my mid-forties. They featured zigzag lights and other seemingly groovy but ultimately unpleasant visual distortions, although fortunately the headache/nausea part tended to be mild for me—at least, as migraines go—upsetting and debilitating, but not completely disabling.

Not only do my mother and I have migraines, but they turn out to be triggered by the very same foods. And since neither of us knew about the others’ triggers until ours were already established, the power of suggestion was not a factor. Heredity almost certainly was, and I would bet almost anything that, if you were to study our DNA, that pesky rs1835740 the migraine researchers identified would be right there on the string.

28 Responses to “Migraine news”

  1. Mr. Frank Says:


    You are in good company. Percy Harvin, the star receiver for the Minnesota Vikings, has suffered migraines since he was 10. His mother also suffered from them. His are debilitating to the point of falling to the ground.

  2. Baklava Says:

    I had a girlfriend for 3 months who had migraine issues…

    But hers started when she fell off of her roof (she was re-roofing her house).


    I did all sort of research back then to no avail of course.

  3. JuliB Says:

    My life saving med is imitrex.

  4. Ritchie Emmons Says:

    I used to get migraines when I was a kid, but somehow grew out of them. They were stress related I think (school wasn’t a breeze for me!)

    I have a friend who used to get migraines, but ever since she started going to the chiropractor, they went away. She also shook off some allergies too I think thanks to the chiropractor. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard this.

    I’ve since gone to a chiropractor (for the traditional reason of fixing an aching back) and he confirmed that seemingly non back-related ailments have been eased or cured by getting chiropractic treatment. Maybe it will even work for people with rs1835740 who get migraines..

  5. Moss Says:

    My doctor freaked when she found out I was taking 10mg of Relpax about every 2 days.
    They seriously affect my life and my outlook on life (i.e. the purpose of life is to minimize suffering not experience joy”)

  6. bandmeeting Says:

    I had my first in ninth grade and like you I had no idea what was happening to me. I might have had six more by the time I made it to college–most involving the porcelain steering wheel–before they went away. Pardon me, mercifully went away.

    I feel for anyone suffering from migraines. What people who have never had them don’t know is that it is like a loaded gun. Any time of any day your world can come to a screeching halt upon first noticing a small blind spot in your vision. Stop everything, your day is done, time to collapse into bed.

    It never happened to me but imagine having one of these thinks show up on an important day.

  7. TheOtherLarry Says:

    My wife has the same problem. Through trial and error we found out that she is sensitive to SOY. If she stays away from anything soy she is alright. If she eats something with soy, she is non-functioning for about 2 days.

    The bad thing is that 95% of processed foods have some kind of soy in it – a real experience grocery shopping. The “organic” or “natural” labels don’t even help because soy is a natural product and can also be grown organically. Virtually everything that lists “natural flavors” contains soy, although the amount is small enough that it’s not required to be listed by FDA requirements. Soy is used as a binder, as in flavorings, as a anti-binder, as in packaged grated cheese.

    We have not been out to a restaurant in over 2 years. It has saved us some money, though.

  8. SteveH Says:

    I have sisters that get them but i never have. Thank God because i don’t think i could handle it as regularly as they do.

  9. anna Says:

    My dad passed them to me – one of the only reasons why I think I am actually his daughter lol. I used to think they were “sinus headaches” and used to overdose on pseudoephedrine – which incidentally, some people report helps their migraines. My trigger is also chocolate, not to mention wine and getting out of a daily routine.

    I have had the sparkly steering wheel aura, lost the ability to read, but I also get black flashes, almost like a camera flash in reverse.

  10. Robert J. Avrech Says:

    Very sorry to hear about your migraines. I’ve had them since I was a child. There are food triggers, weather triggers, and in my work in Hollywood, what I refer to as “star triggers.” I’ve tried every medication in the universe, but about twice a year my wife has to drive me to the ER for an injection of Demerol.

    Sadly, and I guess this is my point, besides kvetching, both our daughters have inherited my migraines.

    I feel guilty… which give me a migraine.

    BTW, your site is brilliant.

  11. expat Says:

    As a chocolate lover/addict, I sympathize. Surely there is a way for scientists to engineer a cacao plant without the migraine-triggering molecules. It does seem likely that identification of one gene related to migraines will spark a lot more research into the problem and eventually lead to specific meds.

  12. charlos Says:

    A few years ago, a doctor had a major WTF? moment when he found out a doctor had prescribed a regular dose of dilantin for me when I was about twelve: “He prescribed WHAT? For MIGRAINES?” Yeah, just for migraines. I didn’t have any seizure condition, he just decided to treat migraine as a seizure condition. I gather it was one of those medical fads that lasted for a while, and was quietly forgotten when the reports started to get back.
    I was really scared a few years ago when I woke up early and picked up a book to read, and discovered I could not read. I shook my head, and then realized I was recovering from a migraine I had had in my sleep. I had not known that aphasia was one of my symptoms, my migraines were so blinding and so bad I just went home and went to bed, and didn’t try to read while under the effects. Were, because the migraines are less lengthy and painful now, they never had the same effect after the few years when I was carrying the little pills that are supposed to stop migraines. I don’t bother now, the migraines now last about 20 minutes, which is how long the pills took to take effect.

  13. charlos Says:

    I recommend Oliver Sack’s book “Migraine,” may be a little hard to find now. Among the many fascinating facts: you really do see what’s in the blind spots, or part of your brain does. If you are walking into the path of a quiet car that’s approaching in your migraine blind spot, you will not walk out in front of the car, you will stop without consciously knowing why. A reflexive part of your brain sees that car.

  14. DarthKeller Says:

    I recently found out that my migraines (which don’t manifest as the “normal” migraine, ie – light/sound sensitivity, headache, etc) are the cause of serious sinus pressure/pain that I’ve dealt with for several years.

    About the only thing I’ve found that works for me: Excedrin Migraine. It might be psychosomatic, but it works for me.

  15. jon baker Says:

    Not to long ago Art suggested the Chinese were trying to build some sort of Genetic specific weapon. Posting your gene out there may have put you at risk, just as surely as posting your social security number would. 🙂

  16. rickl Says:

    I always thought that migraines were a type of headache. A few years ago I had several episodes where I would see wavy patterns of colors lasting for 20 minutes or so, but there was no pain. I went to the doctor and struggled to describe them, and he told me they were migraines.

    I was relieved. I thought I had a brain tumor or something. There was a period of time when I had a number of them, but I haven’t had any for several years now. They went away as mysteriously as they arrived.

  17. sergey Says:

    I just do not believe that any single gene can be responsible for such widespread condition, because usually every complex process involves dosens or even hundreds of individual genes. In any case, the specific releasers of this contraction of this vascular reaction can not be programmed by a single gene because a huge diversity of possible releasers. In some individuals these are certain foods, in others – noises, bright light or, more frequently, some smells. Rather, the overall genetic constitution makes close relatives to react to the same stimulation. The foods which cause migraines more frequently are the same that cause most of allergic reactions – chocolate, oranges, strawberries, nuts. The common feature is the release of histamine into bloodstream, that is why histamine blockers are the most common remedies. Others are vasodilators, including such most common and universal as aspirin. One of the end effects is narrowing of capillars, which can occure everywhere, but more often targets brain or retina, which are most sensitive to oxigene shortage.
    Usual remedies for headache contain some combination of pain-killers, vasodilatory drugs and anti-histamine drugs and can be recommended for all cases of migraine. Another ancient remedy is to make a hot bath for your feet, which reflectively cause vasodilatory response. It is all individual, and everybody should try many tricks to find the best in his/her case. Wool knitted socks can help, too.

  18. sergey Says:

    For my wife, the best remedy is massage of shoulders and upper back; for me, a small glass of vodka and aspirin (but cognac or brandy is better).

  19. Wilson Says:

    Google “migraine art” for a fascinating perspective on our shared affliction. My stomach actually starts to churn when I see artistic renditions of the auras and whirling dervishes.

  20. Harry the Extremist Says:

    Odd that it effects people so differently.

    Mine never came to auras or nausea but they were so painful I’d be out of action for almost an hour.

    My migrane period started and ended without notice. I started getting them in my late 20’s and hadnt had them after my late 30’s. I dont know what triggered them, why they went away, or whether or not it will come back. When I did have them they’d appear more often than not in the evenings, but not with predictable regularity. It got so that I kept a bottle of asprin with me at all times.

    The pain would start over my left eye and intensify in a vertical line above it that felt like my head was going to split open at that point. If I took a couple of asprin as soon as I felt a little pressure coming on, the migraine would be aborted. If I didnt get asprin untill the pain was full on, no amount of asprin would relieve it.

    Odd that it just up’d and dissapeared like that.

  21. Dan D Says:

    My migraines started when I began showing signs of sleep deprivation problems prompted by sleep apnea. After surgery intended to open air passages, I stopped snoring and had higher energy levels and the migraines disappeared.

    Unfortunately, medical science now discourages the UPPP surgery because many patients later relapse with sleep apnea. That happened to me, and migraines are back with a vengeance. My sleep patterns are worse than ever, lots of fatigue, and CPAP therapy doesn’t seem to help.

    Doctors encourage apnea patients to lose excess weight, but I am already thin and fit, so the next steps are not clear. Migraine medication is the last resort, it seems more fruitful to fix the sleep issues in the first place.

    Nobody else in my family had a history of migraines, so we get no clues that way.

  22. reader Says:

    If you get headaches that have been resistant to treatment, explore the possibility of gluten allergy. Gluten (a grain protein, usually associated with wheat) is in just about everything these days. There are many causes of headaches, and one person can get them from multiple causes, but I strongly believe one under-reported cause is gluten sensitivity.

    As an experiment, try going on a gluten-free diet for a week or so. If you start getting massive headaches within a couple of days of going *off* gluten, that means you are highly sensitive to it, were heavily dependent on it, and are undergoing serious withdrawal.

  23. Nolanimrod Says:

    When you got those lights and other groovy visual distortions did your pupils get really large and did you have a permanent grin pasted on your face?

  24. Nolanimrod Says:

    Dear Neo,

    I have recently become a Linux fanatic. I love it, but I am constantly in search of a “workaround” to do things that are easy with Windows.

    Perhaps there is a “workaround” for chocolate.

  25. Nancy Says:

    My migraines started later, in my early thirties, and are mostly due to hormone fluctuation. They come every month, like clockwork, and last for days unless I take some Imitrex.

    In a way,I look forward to my menopause, hoping the migraines will disappear. Fingers crossed.

  26. Surellin Says:

    The French language is not my strong suit, but rather than a “migraineur”, would you not be a “migraineuse”?

  27. colagirl Says:

    Google “migraine art” for a fascinating perspective on our shared affliction. My stomach actually starts to churn when I see artistic renditions of the auras and whirling dervishes.

    Here is one slideshow of migraine art I’ve found. I’ve never had a migraine myself, but just *looking* at some of those images gives me eye strain.

  28. Ian Random Says:

    My wife suffered from headaches since childhood. I was diagnosed with a weird wheat allergy a few years back. When she started to avoid it too, her incidents were greatly diminished.

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