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Migraines and family history

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last review date: November 2010

Family History and Migraines an Introduction

Often when a person has migraines, another person in their family also suffers from migraines. Therefore most migraine headaches doctors and researchers agree that susceptibility to migraines tend to run in families. Several small studies have attempted to find genes that cause migraines, however, that research is still in its early stages. Because there are no specific tests to diagnose migraines, researchers have difficulty diagnosing and classifying different types of migraines to study.

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Migraine Family History Studies show:

  • 70 percent of migraine sufferers have family history of migraines
  • One study shows that if an immediate family member suffers from a migraine, there is a 14 fold increased risk of having migraines
  • Another study shows a 50 percent greater risk of having migraines if an immediate family member suffers from migraines
  • If one parent is a migraine sufferer, there is a 40 percent chance the child will have migraines also
  • If both parents are migraine sufferers, there is a 90 percent chance the child will have migraines
  • Other research has shown that mothers with migraines are more than twice as likely to pass along the disorder to their children than fathers with migraines
  • One large study of more than 5,000 American twins found that if one identical twin had a migraine, the second twin also suffered from migraines 35 percent of the time
  • Fraternal twins suffered from migraines together 16 percent of the time

Family History and Familial Hemiplegic Migraine

There are different types of migraines. In only one kind of migraine, the familial hemiplegic migraine, has the family link been clearly shown based on a genetic alteration.

Migraine with aura or Migraine without aura

Some migraine sufferers experience a type of warning sign that a migraine is about to strike. This sign is called migraine aura. Aura most often includes a change in vision, such as flickering light. Immediate family members of people who have migraine with aura are four times more likely to also suffer from a migraine with aura.