(Ivanhoe Newswire) - Migraine headaches and depression may share a strong genetic component.
The study in the Netherlands involved 2,652 people who took part in the larger Erasmus Rucphen Family study. All of the participants were descendants of 22 couples who lived in Rucphen in the 1850s to 1900s.
"Genealogical information has shown them all to be part of a large extended family, which makes this type of genetic study possible," study author Gisela M. Terwindt, MD, PhD, of Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, was quoted as saying.
Of the participants, 360 had migraines. Of those, 151 had migraine with aura, where affected vision, such as seeing flashes of light, signals the onset of headache, and 209 had migraine with no aura. A total of 977 people had depression, with 25 percent of those with migraine also having depression, compared to 13 percent without migraine.
The researchers then estimated the relative contribution of genetic factors for both of the disorders. They found that for both types of migraine, genetic effects explain an estimated 56 percent of cases. For migraine with aura, the estimate was 96 percent. "This finding shows that migraine with aura may be a promising avenue to search for migraine genes," said Terwindt.
Comparing the heritability scores for depression between those with migraine and those without showed a shared genetic component in the two disorders, particularly with migraine with aura. Terwindt explained, "This suggests that common genetic pathways may, at least partly, underlie both of these disorders, rather than that one is the consequence of the other."
"Understanding the genetic factors that contribute to these disabling disorders could one day lead to better strategies to manage the course of these diseases when they occur together," Andrew Ahn, MD, PhD, of the University of Florida in Gainesville, is quoted as saying in an editorial accompanying the article. "In the meantime, people with migraine or depression should tell their doctors about any family history of either disease to help us better understand the link between the two."