Migraine and Inflammation Linked in Young Adults

Inflammation gets a lot of blame for triggering and exacerbating health conditions, including migraine. The link between inflammation and migraine was reinforced by a study presented at the American Headache Society’s scientific meeting in June. The study found that young adults who have migraine have elevated levels of high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), which is a common marker of inflammation and risk for heart disease and stroke.

For the study, 9,269 people ages 24-32 were asked by healthcare providers whether they had migraine and all participants’ blood was tested for hsCRP levels. Researchers compared the information gathered in interviews with the results of the lab tests. The 11% (1,059) of participants who said they had migraine had significantly higher hsCRP levels on average than those who didn’t have migraine. The connection was particularly strong in young women, which is notable because they have the highest risk of having a migraine-related stroke.

This study’s findings are particularly important in the context of stroke and heart disease. Research is increasingly showing that having migraine may slightly increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. Researchers suspect that inflammation plays a role in this link. (Before you panic, know that the increased risk is very small. See Migraine and Stroke, Heart Disease: Understanding the Risks from my interview with the lead author of this study, Gretchen Tietjen, M.D. Dr. Tietjen is an expert in both migraine and stroke.)

Learning more about the role of inflammation in migraine could lead to better migraine prevention. Preliminary research shows that anti-inflammatory drugs can prevent migraine attacks in people who have migraine with aura. Future research will need to investigate whether these drugs can also prevent attacks in people who have migraine without aura.

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