My Migraine Causes and Genetics

Do you know where your migraines have derived from? Migraines can have many causes. Sometimes people start getting migraines out of the blue and are called idiopathic (no known cause). At other times, a particular cause of migraines can be genetics.

It runs in the family

According to The National Institute of General Medical Sciences, “Genetics is the scientific study of genes and heredity - of how certain qualities or traits are passed from parents to offspring as a result of changes in DNA sequence.”1 This means that someone in the family has a history of migraines, and it is then inherited by someone else. It can be passed from one person or generation to another. This doesn’t have to be an immediate family member like a mom, dad, sister, or brother either. It very well could have been a great uncle, grandmother, or someone else. If one has a migraine and a sibling or parent doesn’t, it just might be that a distant relative is the family member that passed it down.

Mine are military-related

My migraines are not inherited. No one else in my family that had a history of migraines before me. I had no parents, siblings, grandparents, or others in my family with migraine disease. This is true of great aunts, uncles, and cousins as well. As far as we all know, no one before me ever had a migraine attack. I started getting migraine attacks while in the military after spending some time in Southwest Asia (SWA). While I was treated for the symptoms, I was not officially diagnosed until about six years after my enlistment was up.

In the military, I had no official visits with a neurologist at all. I would go to our version of urgent care for soldiers (Sick Call). There, I would be given medication such as IV normal saline, Zofran, and stomach medicines. I would, on occasion, have an upset stomach along with the migraine symptoms. I frequently received prescriptions for Phenergan or Zofran plus Motrin. Motrin was the cure-all for soldiers. It is something that we still joke about to this day.

Apparently I have bad genes, too

My son, on the other hand, takes after me. He was unfortunate enough to get my messed-up genes. He has been dealing with migraine disease and related symptoms since he was in elementary school. He is now in his mid-20s. I am glad that his pediatrician realized that he had migraine early on. Because I had a history of migraine, visual disturbances, vertigo, and nausea, it helped my son get a quick diagnosis. His pediatrician said since I had it, and he was having similar symptoms, that was what he was going through as well. He prescribed ibuprofen with a caffeinated soda for migraine attacks at school. He loved that as it was the only time he had permission to get a Coke from the school’s soda machine in the teacher’s lounge. For his home use, though, he was given a prescription for Tenex (guanfacine).

There’s help out there

If you or a family member are having bad headaches and/or nausea, light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, balance issues (vertigo), or other symptoms suggestive of migraine disease, please talk to your primary care doctor or a neurologist. There is help out there. The first thing to do is to get a proper diagnosis though. It may or may not be migraine disease. Remember that if you have these symptoms and have a history of migraine disease in your family, you very well can have migraine disease. Even if your symptoms are not the same as the member with migraine disease, it can not be ruled out until you see a neurologist or headache specialist. For more information on migraine symptoms, check out this article.

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