People with migraine who also battle allergies and hay fever (rhinitis) endure a more severe form of headaches than their peers who struggle with migraine, according to researchers from the University of Cincinnati (UC), Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University and Vedanta Research.
About 12 percent of the U.S. population experiences migraine, which is three times more common in women than men. Allergies and hay fever—also known as allergic rhinitis—are quite common as well, affecting anywhere from a quarter to half of the U.S. population. They produce symptoms such as a stuffy and runny nose, post nasal drip and itching of the nose.
The study is one of the first tying the relationship of rhinitis—irritation and inflammation of the nasal mucus membrane caused by allergic and non-allergic triggers—to the frequency of migraine headaches, says Vincent Martin, MD, professor of medicine in UC’s division of general internal medicine, co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Program at the UC Neuroscience Institute and lead author of the study.
"We are not sure whether the rhinitis causes the increased frequency of headaches or whether the migraine attacks themselves produce symptoms of rhinitis in these patients,” Martin says. "What we can say is if you have these symptoms, you are more likely to have more frequent and disabling headaches.”
The researchers analyzed data from the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) Study. A 2008 questionnaire was filled out by nearly 6,000 AMPP Study respondents from across the country who have experienced migraine. To define rhinitis, participants were asked the question, "Do you suffer from nasal allergies, seasonal allergies or hayfever?”
Rhinitis occurred in two out of three people with migraine in this study. The researcher say that the fact that rhinitis occurred in more than half of these individuals emphasizes that these disorders are intimately linked.
Based on the results, researchers found the odds of experiencing more frequent headaches for individuals with rhinitis and migraine was 33 percent greater than those battling migraines without rhinitis.
"The nose has largely been ignored as an important site involved in the initiation and exacerbation of migraine headache,” says Richard Lipton, MD, professor of neurology at Albert Einstein
College of Medicine at Yeshiva University and co-director of the
Montefiore Headache Center and principal investigator of the study. "If rhinitis exacerbates migraine, as these results suggest, treating rhinitis may provide an important approach to relieving headache in people with both disorders.”
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