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Are Migraines Genetic? The Science Behind Hereditary Headaches

Brother and sister with hereditary headaches

While a person’s health is largely dependent upon lifestyle and environment, genetics plays a significant role in the formation of disorders as well. Many people who suffer from migraines say that someone else in their family has them too.

So, are migraines genetic, and what can be done to reduce one’s risk of heredity headaches?

Here is some information about how migraines and genetics are connected and what aspects of one’s genetic makeup can lead to more frequent and painful headaches. This article will also address migraine genetic testing and the types of genes that are connected to migraine pain that runs in families.

What Are Hereditary Headaches?

Heredity headaches are headaches that are experienced within families and that are passed down from one generation to the next due to the family members’ genetic makeup. There is substantial scientific evidence that shows that people who have a parent who experiences migraines are more likely to have them too. And if both parents have migraines, the child’s risk rises even higher. In addition to migraines, cluster headaches may run in families as well.

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What Causes Migraines in General?

In addition to genetics, there are many factors that can cause migraines and make them worse. Imbalanced brain chemicals, such as serotonin, commonly cause migraines to form because this chemical helps to regulate pain in the body. Common migraine triggers include hormones, processed foods, alcohol, sun glare, changes in sleep, and oral contraceptives.

Migraines and Genetics: Are Migraines Hereditary?

There is a type of migraine called a familial hemiplegic migraine that tends to run in families. With familial hemiplegic migraines, a gene is inherited that is believed to cause the severe head pain. A gene known as TRESK was discovered in 2010 and is directly linked to migraines. TRESK is abundant in the brain’s primary sensory relation station, and this region just outside the brain plays an important role in migraine pain.

This type of headache is commonly preceded by an aura and accompanied by vision changes, such as double vision or flashing lights. The pain and vision changes are also often accompanied by temporary muscle weakness. Research shows that mothers are more likely to pass migraines down to their children than fathers. And identical twins tend to both suffer from hereditary migraines more often than fraternal twins.

Migraine Genetic Testing

Individuals who are uncertain about their family medical history or who want to understand their migraine condition better may wish to try migraine genetic testing. A DNA test can identity genes that are associated with migraines. These tests often involve a specialized kit and require spitting in a tube to have the saliva tested. Specific genes need to be identified to test for familial hemiplegic migraine. Genes known as CACNA1A, ATP1A2, and SCN1A have been linked to this condition.

Genetic Illnesses with Headache Symptoms

Whether migraine genetic testing is desired or not, there is much to be learned by studying illnesses that are genetic and that commonly have headache symptoms. For example, certain sleep disorders are believed to be hereditary and result in headache pain. Genetically related autoimmune diseases may cause frequent headaches within families as well.

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