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Sunday 23rd October 2016

Migraine and epilepsy genes 'linked'

8th January 2013

Researchers at New York's Columbia University say they have discovered that the genetic inheritance that makes people susceptible to migraines is also linked to epilepsy.


Writing in the journal Epilepsia, they say that people who have a strong family history of seizure are more likely to suffer from migraine with aura.

Previous research has already shown that epilepsy and migraine are often found in the same person.

According to study lead author Melodie Winawer of Columbia University's Medical Center, epilepsy and migraine are each individually influenced by genetic factors.

Winawer's study is the first to confirm a shared genetic susceptibility to epilepsy and migraine in a large population of patients with common forms of epilepsy.

Winawer and her team looked at data from epilepsy patients and their families enrolled in the Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project (EPGP) from clinics in Argentina, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US.

They found that families where several individuals suffered from epilepsy were also more likely to produce migraine with aura (MA) patients.

In MA, flashing lights, blind spots and other symptoms occur before the onset of the headache.

Winawer and her colleagues concluded that this was evidence of the existence of a gene, or genes, that cause both conditions.

Epilepsy patients are often adversely affected by conditions that accompany their complaint, and sometimes these conditions affect their quality of life more than the seizures themselves.

The US National Institutes of Health has highlighted this in its benchmarks for care of such patients.

Winawer said the link between the two was likely to be genetic, as it was found only in people who had close relatives with epilepsy and when three or more close relatives had it.

She said that further investigation of the genetics of groups who have both conditions should help doctors better identify the treatment needs of epilepsy patients in their care.

Simon Wigglesworth, deputy chief executive at the UK charity Epilepsy Action, welcomed the findings, saying they would contribute to a better understanding of the genetic link between epilepsy and other medical conditions.

He said more targeted treatments could be developed for epilepsy patients in future, and steps could be taken to improve diagnosis and treatment.

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