Medical overlap between migraines and multiple sclerosis has been recognized since 1952. A study done in 1952 observed that two percent of the patients experienced migraines within the first three months of initial relapse of multiple sclerosis. The possibility of the links between multiple sclerosis and migraines has always been scanty.
The causes of MS and migraines are different, although the two share some common symptoms. Multiple sclerosis occurs when your myelin, the brain nerves protective cover, is attacked by your immune system. After the attack, a person experiences body weakness, tingling, persistent pain, and vision problems.
Scientists have not singled out the exact cause of migraines in a person. However, scientific theories suggest that body chemicals and hormones play a big part in migraines. Some of the common triggers of migraines in a person include:
- Beverages with caffeine
- Alcoholic drinks such as wine
- Stress and anxiety
- Certain foods such as those with a lot of salt and old cheese
- Food additives
- Medications such as vasodilators and contraceptives are taken orally
The primary symptom of migraines is a severe headache. Other symptoms include nausea, body weakness, tingling, dizziness, and sometimes visual symptoms known as auras. Auras manifest by an unclear vision, which instead one sees spots, zigzag lines, or sparkles.
Is the Link Between Multiple Sclerosis a chance or a Cause?
Many people, nearly twelve percent of the world's population, complain of migraines. However, people who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis have twice more likely chances of having migraines and other head pains than others.
In some cases, migraines result from multiple sclerosis; however, the two conditions differ greatly in others. To better explain this, consider:
- A big percentage of people experiencing migraines and multiple sclerosis had complained of headaches even before they were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
- There is a percentage of people who have never experienced migraines and only complain about them after the first sign of multiple sclerosis shows up.
- Several people live with multiple sclerosis for a long time without them being aware. They only get to discover their condition after experiencing an intense headache called the brain's imaging tests.
Additional Links Between Multiple Sclerosis and Migraines
Scientific theories are explaining the link between multiple sclerosis and migraines. In one of the studies conducted, migraines were found to cause brain inflammation. There are higher risks of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as a result of brain inflammation. Another study indicated that migraines shift the levels of serotonin in the brain. The changing levels of serotonin increase the chances of multiple sclerosis.
Multiple sclerosis is not, in most cases, the direct cause of migraines. However, some aspects of multiple sclerosis tend to increase the likelihood of experiencing headaches or making head pains more painful. These aspects include:
- Medications such as fingolimod and beta interferons used to treat multiple sclerosis may trigger migraines. A certain percentage of people who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis have higher chances of experiencing migraines for the first time after being put on MS medications. Another percentage of multiple sclerosis patients have had migraines several times during their lifetime but are only triggered when they start undergoing treatment.
- During multiple sclerosis flare-ups, MS symptoms do not occur continuously; they usually come and go. Patients experience flare-ups when the symptoms of their condition worsen or when new symptoms are setting in. Migraines tend to occur more during flare-ups and, in some cases, come in conjunction with aura.
- Damage to the brain stem caused by multiple sclerosis. Doctors believe that migraines sprout from the brain stem. The brain stem is the part of the brain where multiple sclerosis causes injury of the nerves. The injuries occasioned on this part often lead to migraines.
- Emotional aspects brought about by multiple sclerosis. Patients who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis undergo a lot of stress and anxiety. As a result, they tend to experience migraines.
- Swelling of the optic nerves. Multiple sclerosis can lead to the swelling of the optic nerves, which are found behind the eyes. The swelling may cause severe headaches, even though it is not a migraine that might be misjudged.
Treatment of Migraines for Multiple Sclerosis Patients
Treatment of headaches is usually based on the cause. Doctors may prescribe fingolimod to multiple sclerosis patients as a Disease-modifying therapy. The medication may trigger migraines forcing the doctor to alter the dosage and seek an alternative prescription.
Some of the medications one can use to reduce the head pains severed by migraines include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Although medics discourage over-the-counter drugs, painkillers such as naproxen ( Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil) can be used as a first response to relieve head pains caused by migraines.
- Triptans can also be used to relieve migraines. You can take triptans in many forms, such as pills, dissolvable tablets, injections, or nasal sprays.
- Multiple sclerosis is often linked to causing migraines due to emotional aspects such as depression, anxiety, and stress. Antidepressants can be used to treat migraines effectively. Antidepressants that can be used in the treatment of migraines.