everyday health magazine

A high proportion of people with MS have migraine, but doctors don’t know why this is the case.

Migraine is one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States and around the world. About 15 percent of Americans have migraine, and about 14 percent of people worldwide have it.

But among people with multiple sclerosis (MS), the prevalence of migraine is about 30 percent overall, with a higher prevalence in American and African countries and a lower prevalence in Asian and European countries.

“The emerging science suggests a higher morbidity of migraine in patients with other inflammatory or immunological conditions such as multiple sclerosis,” says Ana Felix, MBBCh, assistant professor in the division of general medicine and clinical epidemiology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.

This suggests (with an emphasis on “suggests”) that there may be some link, although there is no data available to support the hypothesis to date, says Dr. Felix.

Both MS and Migraine Are Relapsing-Remitting Conditions
From a distance, MS and migraine can look similar, says Anne Damian Yacoub, MD, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Headache Center in Baltimore who specializes in both multiple sclerosis and headache.

“Both are relapsing-remitting conditions, and they both tend to preferentially affect young women,” she says.

In a relapsing-remitting condition, relapsing is when symptoms are worse for a period of time, and remitting is a period of remission when the symptoms get better or even go away completely.

About 85 percent of people diagnosed with MS have relapsing-remitting MS, according to the National MS Society, with a smaller number diagnosed with primary-progressive MS, in which symptoms steadily worsen, with no periods of relapse or remission.

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