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The family migraine connection

Over Memorial Day Weekend, my sister and I trekked up to Pittsburgh for our family reunion. Miracle of miracles: I did not get a migraine in the car ride or in the first three days of the trip! (Usually I have a migraine by the time I am rolling up to my destination after a long road trip.)

I chalk up my success to sharing the driving duties with my sister and to the fact that she packed lots of sandwiches and snacks for us—often I don’t eat or drink enough on the road, getting so hungry and thirsty that I end up scarfing down unhealthy food that makes me feel grody.

I’ve been thinking lately of asking all my extended family (there are a lot of ‘em) to fill out health forms for me. Until a couple of years ago, no doctor had asked for detailed information about my grandparents’, cousins’, aunts’, and uncles’ health—any family questions dealt with my immediate family. The more I talk to my extended family about health issues, the more I learn.

One of my cousins is a few years older than I, and at the reunion she commented that she thought that perhaps a migraine was coming on because she’d started to see blinking lights in the corner of her eye. She described how the lights look similar to the after-image you see when someone has taken your photo with a bright flashbulb. The blinking lights eventually emerge into a series of bright circles that make it hard for her to see. Shortly after the circles appear, the headache comes barreling in.

Talking to a relative about her aura was fascinating to me. I live so much in my own world and often forget how many close friends and family have their own migraine stories to tell. It was interesting to sit back and hear how she describes her own migraine patterns.

Do you talk to family members about their health issues? Have you discovered anything that has made you open your eyes or think twice about your own health?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Jennifer Guzman
    8 years ago

    My grandmother and mother and sister all had and have migraine. If I don’t have a wopping migraine, I usually have some sort of head pain daily. Has anyone been put on beta blockers? I felt like they actually gave me headaches. Has anyone else had this experience?

  • Julianne Zimmerman Alley
    8 years ago

    Why why WHY do people with migraines that are obviously hereditary insist on having children and passing this suffering along to their offspring? If you wouldn’t wish this pain on your worst enemy, why would you wish it on your own children? I think it is extremely selfish to put your own desire to reproduce ahead of the well-being of your child and will never understand it.

  • Chave D Sladia
    8 years ago

    What caught my interest is the fact that your migraines run in your family. There is a genetic disorder CADASIL. The symptoms include migraines.You can learn more about this at

  • Danielle Turney
    8 years ago

    I have always talked with my family about health issues, that is how I learned that I had migraines on both sides of my family tree. My maternal grandma suffers from ocular migraines and my dad suffered with sinus migraines & cluster migraines. I unfortunately suffer with all the above plus more.

  • Janene Zielinski
    8 years ago

    That’s a great idea to have a family health form that you could take with you when you do paperwork for a new doctor.

  • Diana Lee
    8 years ago

    Yes, we talk about them. They’re common in my family, too. As far as I know, my paternal grandmother, maternal grandfather, aunts, father, brother and cousins have all experienced them. It definitely makes them much more understanding of my needs, for the most part, though I still don’t think they understand how much it wears you down to live like this for 8+ years. But how could they?

  • Georgia Slesinger
    8 years ago

    I’m the only person in my family who suffers from migraine, as far as I know. And I’ve had them for 33 years now.

  • Louise M. Houle
    8 years ago

    We had a big family reunion in New England in July. I asked all 7 siblings if they ever had a migraine and guess what – everyone had at one point in time. Only 1 had them weekly. Also found out, according to my big sister, that my mom’s headaches, which I remember, were actually migraines. My nephew had to leave the party because a migraine started. Two neices also get them. Well there you go. Definitely genetic!

  • Pam Boynton
    8 years ago

    I believe that migraines run in families. My Mom had them, I’ve had them since I was 13, both my children have them, my 2 grandchildren have them. That’s 4 generations! It’s interesting that I’m the only one with “aura”.

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