The Genetics of Migraine

It’s not your fault. It’s genetic.

Migraine is hereditary, so if one or both of your parents have it, there is a 50-75% chance you will too. Knowing your family’s medical history, especially if it involves migraine, can help younger generations get an early and accurate diagnosis, start managing triggers, and explore treatment options. There is an entire migraine support network out there to help you through the migraine journey, and it all starts at home.

Three ways families can work together to manage migraine

    1. Keep headache diaries
      Those living with migraine are already encouraged to keep a headache diary to keep track of their attacks and potential triggers. When an entire family participates, you are able to compare the similarities and differences in your triggers and symptoms, and that information will be very useful later when you sit down with a headache specialist. While everyone experiences migraine differently, family members often share symptoms, triggers and lifestyle characteristics, so similar treatments may be effective for parents and children.
        
    2. Interview each other about your migraine family history
      To get a better understanding of your family’s history with migraine—especially if you are experiencing symptoms and headaches for the first time—interviewing family members who also have migraine will be helpful as you begin to assess things like whether to see a doctor and what treatment options to explore. The following questions are a great starting point:

      • How old were you when you first started getting migraine?
      • Can you describe the feeling/pain before a migraine set in and during the time of the attack?
      • What do you do to help manage your migraine? Do you use any treatments?
      • How did you know it was migraine and not just a headache?
      • What are your triggers and how do you manage them?
      • Has your headache pattern changed throughout life, or stayed the same?
      • If it changed, what do you think caused the change?

       

    3. Be supportive
      Our migraine support system is what gets us through the days that feel unbearable, and we would be lost without them. Migraine is a family matter, making it even more important to work together—with both family members and doctors—to manage this disease and support our loved ones when they need it most. Make sure to communicate with your family members and support system about what you are experiencing. Trust us when we say that they want to be there for you.

Doctors and researchers are making amazing strides in genetic research, and every day they are closer to a breakthrough. If you’re interested in participating in an upcoming migraine study or clinical trial, visit our website. If you would like more information about managing your family’s migraine, contact the American Migraine Foundation.