Is Migraine Disease in My Family's Genes?

A quick Google search of this question returns millions of results in under a second. I knew from my personal experience that there is a genetic link to migraine disease in my family. This question was posed to me by my treating doctors since the start of my treatment journey. Knowing your family lineage is one thing, but finding my medical history was challenging.

Over time, I discovered that migraine lived on almost all my family tree’s branches. Unfortunately, my wife’s family branches also had migrainous fruit. This link was the key that opened the door to migraine disease for three of my four daughters.

How many of my family members have migraine?

There are six of us in our family unit. Of those six, five of us live with migraine disease. We range in age from 18 - 56, and we’ve lived in the same area of Florida for over forty years. Here, I will focus on how three of my four daughters experience their migraines. I asked them to describe how they experienced migraine and how it impacted their lives.

When did my daughters have their first attacks?

My daughters are between 18 - 33 years old. Each one has co-morbid conditions that have developed with the onset of migraine in their lives. My youngest recalled her first experience with migraine was at age ten, whereas my second youngest and oldest said it was at age 12 as puberty started. My wife and I both were living with migraine and when we witnessed the girl’s attacks, we immediately suspected migraine.

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How have they treated them?

Treating migraine attacks was similar for them. They all found sleeping in total darkness was helpful. Our two older girls were able to relieve their attacks with over-the-counter medications, but our youngest got no relief from them. Topiramate helped break the migraine cycle for our youngest after a few months of treatment. Now, she has excellent results from a Nerivio device combined with sleep. Our oldest also finds relief from a very hot shower, and our middle uses ice as her first-line treatment paired with sleep.

What symptoms do they experience?

Their symptoms vary. The oldest finds that she loses the feeling in her hands and fingers before her attack starts. Weather is a known trigger for her. Our middle has light sensitivity and allodynia with an occasional classic visual aura. Her frequency has always been greater than her sisters. Our youngest gets a rapid onset for her attacks coupled with fatigue and aura. Her attacks ramp up quickly, which makes treatment a challenge at times.

How has their migraine changed?

Over time, their migraine disease has changed. They all noted that they feel hormones have played a factor in their migraine cycles. Our oldest has four children and had no attacks during her pregnancies. Now, she has an attack about once a month but has learned how to prepare and treat early. Like her dad, she powers through. Our middle has polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which she feels plays a role in her attacks. She also had her daith pierced a few years back, which helped her. She plans to have her daith in the other ear done due to the efficacy loss from the first one. She is also currently expecting, and that has helped her attacks. Our youngest has found that her attacks have improved over time. She takes prescription medication, which stabilizes her mood and acts as a preventative for her. Her attacks revolve around her menstrual cycle.

What support have they received?

As a family of people living with migraine in various degrees, the support system at home is excellent. The two youngest girls work outside the house, and our youngest also attends college. The care, support, and understanding they get in those areas is slim. They suffer from the stigma of having an invisible disease. Often, they have to speak up to get support and accommodations at work and school. I am happy to say that the support they receive from family is considerable. We understand the burden that migraine disease places on our shoulders. Having a genetic link to familial migraine is not ideal, but we are resilient, and we will live our best lives despite migraine disease!

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.

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