A new multinational study has revealed migraines have far more genetic links than initially thought. In the largest study of its kind, researchers discovered three times as many genetic risk factors as previously thought.

Here, we’ll look at what the latest study revealed, what happens during a migraine as well as looking at some of the best ways to deal with a migraine attack.

New study reveals 123 genetic regions associated with migraines

The latest research, carried out by researchers at the University of Helsinki, identified 123 genetic regions associated with migraines. While a genetic link has long been established through previous research, this new study shows genes play more of a role in migraines than we thought.

The study included a total of 102,084 people who suffer from migraines and 771,257 people who don’t. Researchers analysed their genomes and discovered 123 genetic regions, otherwise known as loci, associated with the condition. Until now, 86 of these genetic regions were previously unknown.

Approximately one-third of patients who suffer migraines, experience auras. These are flashing lights that can be seen before and/or during a headache. There aren’t currently any treatment options for these auras, but the new research could help to change that.

A better understanding of what causes migraines gives scientists the chance to develop more effective treatments.

What are migraine symptoms?

Migraines aren’t your typical headache. They produce a wide range of symptoms and can greatly vary in severity. The condition can occur in four different stages including:

  • Prodrome
  • Aura
  • Attack
  • Post-drome

The prodrome stage typically begins a day or two before the migraine develops. You may experience subtle signs that an attack is on the way. Common symptoms during this stage include constipation, food cravings, mood changes, and a stiff neck.

The second aura stage can develop either before or during the migraine. Patients experience symptoms of the nervous system such as flashes of light, vision loss, and pins and needles in the arms or legs. These symptoms tend to last up to 60 minutes, and they tend to develop gradually.

The attack stage is where you experience the migraine itself. It can last from 4 to 72 hours when left untreated. You will typically feel a throbbing or pulsating pain in one or both sides of the head. You will also develop light sensitivity and you may experience nausea and vomiting.

The final post-drome stage occurs after the migraine. You will feel drained and potentially confused for up to a day. If you move your head suddenly, it may also bring the pain back for a brief period of time.

How to treat a migraine

There are migraine treatments available, and you should always consult a doctor if you experience them. However, there are also alternative therapies and coping strategies. For example, meditation, acupressure and acupuncture can all be effective ways to manage the pain of a migraine.

Keeping a migraine diary will help you to identify any potential triggers you need to avoid. Ensuring you get plenty of sleep is another tip you should follow, alongside exercising regularly and eating at regular intervals. When a migraine strikes, you can sit in a darkened room, and take medication if required.

There are different classes of medications to prevent the occurrence of migraine or to reduce the number of migraine days per month. Some medications are taken only when the migraine attack has started otherwise they will not have any effect.

The mechanism and pain generators during migraine continue to be studied and nowadays they are a lot better known. The hyperactivity of the pericranial muscles can be reduced by special injection-based techniques and this leads to the successful reduction of symptoms in most patients.

To find out the best way to relieve and prevent your migraines, book a consultation with Dr Stoilova today.