Expert Answer: Migraine and seizures

Question: Is there a relationship between migraine and seizures?

There is definitely a link between migraine and seizures. Doctors have long recognized that migraine and epilepsy occur together more often than they would expect by chance alone. So people with migraines are more likely to also have a seizure disorder and people with epilepsy are more likely to also get migraines. For example, research shows that people with epilepsy are over twice as likely to also get migraines compared with people without a seizure disorder. In some cases, migraines can actually trigger seizures.

And many people experience headaches that can look like migraines after having experienced a seizure. About one in ten people with epilepsy also experiences headaches as a pre-seizure warning sign.

A variety of seizure drugs, like valproate, topiramate, and gabapentin, have been shown to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. If your migraines get better when you use seizure drugs, this does NOT mean that your migraines are caused by seizures or a seizure disorder. Rather, there are some similarities in the underlying mechanisms of migraine and epilepsy that can be positively affected by the same drugs. Some of the same genetic markers for migraine have also been found in people with epilepsy.

Take home message -- migraines and seizures are two different, distinct disorders. They are more likely to occur together and probably share similar biological mechanisms.

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