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What is a Comorbid Condition? A Bulleted List for Patients

Patients often misunderstand the term comorbid. Let’s talk about this frequently used term and eliminate some myths and misconceptions:

  • A comorbidity is a condition that a patient has in addition to their Migraine Disease. It is not part of their Migraine Disease.
  • A primary disease or condition is something that is not caused by another disease or condition.
  • A secondary disease or condition is something that is the result of another disease or condition.
  • Migraine is a genetic disease. Our genetic makeup makes it possible for us to have a Migraine attack. Just because we have the genetic capacity for Migraine attacks, does not necessarily mean we will have them.
  • Migraine is a primary condition. It is not caused by another disease or condition. Many other diseases or conditions found in Migraineurs are also primary.
  • A comorbid condition does not cause Migraine Disease. Migraine Disease does not cause the comorbid condition. Although each condition is present in a single patient, each is separate and not related to the other.
  • Migraine patients often suffer similar comorbid conditions that other Migraineurs also live with. This does not mean that one condition is causing the other. It may mean there is something happening in the patient that makes it more likely for them to suffer each of the comorbid conditions however.
  • Comorbid conditions may sometimes influence or exacerbate each other. A Migraineur may experience Migraine attacks triggered by their comorbid condition. Their comorbid condition may be made worse by their Migraine attacks.
  • Treatment for a comorbid condition may complicate or exacerbate a patient’s Migraine Disease. Migraine treatment or management strategies may complicate or exacerbate the comorbid condition.
  • In some instances, treatment for a comorbid condition may be helpful for the patient’s Migraine Disease. Discovering this is how some medicines began to be used off label for Migraine treatment. Some examples are blood pressure medicines, Botox and anti-seizure medications. Treatment for a patient’s Migraine Disease may also sometimes be helpful for the comorbid condition.

Migraine.com is currently compiling a list of frequently comorbid diseases and conditions, hoping that when patients better understand these conditions and their interaction with Migraine Disease, they will become more proactive in discussing their comorbidities with their physicians and work with them as an educated team.

Here is an index of our comorbid articles for patients:

You can help us as we grow… What comorbid conditions would you like to see us address here at Migraine.com?

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

Comments

  • MargoW
    4 years ago

    Restless legs, insomnia, aphasia, asthma, hypotension, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (or other irregular heartbeat issues), Chiari malformations, eye disorders

  • MargoW
    4 years ago

    Erhlos Danlos syndrome (EDS)

  • huggi001
    4 years ago

    Pituitary disorders (hypopituitarism)

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    6 years ago

    All great ideas – we’re working on some of them right now!

  • taralane
    7 years ago

    PTSD – from sexual abuse or childhood sexual, emotional or physical abuse such as incest by a parent, also bi-polar disease.

  • Julie Lyon
    7 years ago

    Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)

  • Naturegirlsk
    7 years ago

    Lyme disease, particularly chronic Lyme disease which is finally making its way into mainstream medicine can definitely cause debilitating chronic migraines. With the explosion of ticks, even in more urban areas, in all 50 states we will be seeing more and more people come down with this devastating disease. It made my migraines go from occasional to daily.

  • Julie
    7 years ago

    Would PTSD and Panic Attacks be Comorbid conditions of Migraine Disease?

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    7 years ago

    Hi Julie,
    Anxiety and depression can be comorbid conditions with migraine as well as panic attacks and migraine. Continue reading https://migraine.com/migraine-and-mental-health/panic-disorder-overview/ for more information.
    Dr. Gretchen Tietjen (migraine specialist and researcher) has been doing research on PTSD and migraine and found there is a correlation between the two. According to Tietjen, childhood abuse (emotional, physical or sexual, neglect and so on) and other childhood abuses can lead to PTSD later in life and PTSD seems to be three to four times higher in people with migraine than those who don’t have migraine.

  • jamesbogash
    7 years ago

    I know I’ll catch flak for this, but a migraine is a symptom, NOT a condition. Many of the comorbidities are not mutually occurring diseases; rather, they are different conditions caused by the same problem. The current research strongly supports a vascular / mitochondrial dysfunction model of migraines. With vascular problems headaches, heart attacks and strokes are going to occur at an increased frequency. The “genetic” model removes any responsibility on the part of the patient to make lifestyle changes to improve the health of their brain.

    **Comment edited by moderator due to inclusion of promotional/commercial material**

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    7 years ago

    James, feel free to present your information here. Commercial links are always deleted. This is included in our terms of service when you join. However, I would love to see links to the original peer reviewed research from JAMA, Cephalalgia, Headache or the like.

  • jamesbogash
    7 years ago

    Ellen–the moderator always cuts off my links. I read over 120 peer reviewed medical journals / month and have done over 2,000 blog posts with a strong emphasis on migraines and epilepsy, including a soon to be published book on the integrative management. So I stay VERY current with a large chunk of the medical literature. As for the “vascular theory” I would agree. It is the “vascular dysfunction” that is the problem. Migraines are a systemic problem.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    7 years ago

    James, Unfortunately, your assessment is not far off. As advocates we insist that evidence be given for statements of fact such as yours. This is important because patients need to understand the disease process as well as management strategies. There is so much misinformation, myths and downright untruths being passed around regarding Migraine that it has resulted in terrible stigma that hurts people. Worse, it hurts our ability to receive funding for research we desperately need for targeted treatments. If this had been presented as an opinion that is one thing, but we don’t ever ask patients to take our word for anything. We have research and facts to back that up. We can supply you with plenty of citations from major peer-reviewed medical journals confirming that Migraine is a primary disorder, not a symptom. Upon what peer reviewed evidence are you basing your statement that it’s a symptom?

  • Teri-Robert
    7 years ago

    James,
    You’re a bit behind on your “current research.” The vascular theory is no longer the prevalent theory of Migraine. Migraine has been well demonstrated to be neurological with cortical spreading depression beginning before any vascular component. Indeed, it has been demonstrated that vasodilation is unnecessary for Migraine and some Migraines occur without it.

    If you think the “genetic” model removes responsibility on the part of the patient, then you’re selling the patient short, and I find that insulting. I am well aware that Migraine is a primary genetic headache disorder, not a symptom of another disease or disorder, yet that doesn’t stop me from working with my health care team to identify and manage my Migraine triggers, improve my health, and take responsibility for my health and my health care choices.

    The blame-the-patient gambit is an old one, and a very sad and pathetic one.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    7 years ago

    These are all amazing ideas for future articles on comorbidities – thank you all!

  • Carly Schaps
    7 years ago

    It’s not a condition, per se, but it might be worth studying the pupil size of migraine patients. I recently flunked a test to see if could get Lasik surgery because my pupils were too large. I’ve always been light sensitive and light is one of my big triggers so I think there might be a connection.

  • taralane
    7 years ago

    I just went for an eye exam because I am having auras every time I go into a darkened area of my apartment, and although they are smaller than they were when they started, it is still disconcerting. So I went to the opthamologist who commented on the size of my pupils. She said they were unusually large. I had been wearing sunglasses but they were off for at least 15 min. before I saw her. Something to think about.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    7 years ago

    hangingbyathread – Migraineurs do sometimes find it difficult to both protect themselves from their ultra sensitive eyes while at the same time preventing them from becoming even more light sensitive by wearing glasses all the time. I am one of those that had to make a lot of changes in my life so that I didn’t have to wear them all day indoors in my own home. Ophthalmologists often comment that wearing sunglasses all day indoors can result in changes that are not helpful to us. However, at this point, there is little some of us can do at times. I myself hope that, eventually my Migraines will be well enough managed that worrying about my eyes will be bigger than worrying about my head. We can slowly get our eyes back to their normal ability to be without sunglasses. In my case I simply choose to do that when I am able.

  • Melanie Symonds
    7 years ago

    I’d love to know if it is common for women with Menstrual Migraine to also struggle with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    6 years ago

    Hi Cheryle,

    To make things a bit more complicated, there are two types of menstrual migraine and knowing the difference between the two is very important. Dr. Hutchinson does a great job of explaining this in her article here; http://migraine.com/blog/hormonal-migraine-the-basics/.

    Frova has been found to be beneficial for menstrual migraine. Started one to two days before menses begins and taken for a few days through it. You may want to discuss this with your doctor, either gynecologist or neurologist.

    Nancy

  • Cheryle Breaux
    6 years ago

    Melanie, I too suffer from menstrual migraines and am so frustrated that there is so little being done to help manage these. I am constantly amazed that so many neurologists just try to hand this off to your gyno and vise versa. Neuros just want to treat the actual headache and not what is causing it. Gynos just want to put you on the pill. I’ve seen some articles that suggest taking small amounts of estrogen prior to your menstrual period can help prevent that drop in hormones that triggers the migraine. However, my neuro just says there is so little known about it and drops it. I just wish that neurologists would start looking in to this management of hormones as part of their treatment plan. Sorry, that was kind of a vent but I too would like more information on the management of menstrual migraines.

  • Diana Lee
    7 years ago

    Great introduction! For those who are wondering, the list of conditions in this article is just the articles published so far in the comorbid series on Migraine.com. Articles on additional topics, including those mentioned by other commenters, are coming as we have time to write them.

  • Christina Marie Cueto
    7 years ago

    I’m curious to know if asthma is a common comorbid condition among migraine sufferers & how the 2 affect each other.

  • Ellen Schnakenberg author
    7 years ago

    Christina – it can be! It’s interesting to note that asthma patients are often found to be deficient in Magnesium. It is also not uncommon for Migraine patients to be deficient in the mineral as well. The treatment often used for both Migraine and Asthma in the emergency room? IV Magnesium. I think you’re right – it might make a good article!

  • Diana Lee
    7 years ago

    I’m not sure, but we can certainly try to find out more about that.

  • Janene Zielinski
    7 years ago

    I am very interested in knowing more about Dystonia – just read about it on this blog recently, but would like to understand it even better in relation to migraine. I actually have what seem to me to be “Dystonia like” symptoms as part of my “aura” now.

  • Kathleen Lemoine
    7 years ago

    Fibromyalgia and food intolerances.

  • Megan Leitsinger
    7 years ago

    what about fibromyalgia, raynauds disease, cervical spondylosis, and severe allergies.

  • Diana Lee
    7 years ago

    We have more posts coming in this series on those topics, but they haven’t been written yet. Thanks for asking about those other conditions, as I’m sure other readers were wondering, too.

  • Laura
    7 years ago

    Insomnia, fibromyalgia

  • theresadz
    7 years ago

    Restless Leg Syndrome, Fibromyalgia,

  • Poll