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Migraine Frequency Increases with Allergies and Hay Fever

Allergies and hay fever are unpleasant enough on their own, but now they — and the nasal symptoms that accompany them — appear to be linked to more frequent and more disabling migraine attacks, according to a recent NHF-sponsored study. Researchers, led by Vincent Martin, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Cincinnati and co-director of the university’s Headache and Facial Pain Program, found that two-thirds of patients with migraine disease reported suffering from allergies and were 33 percent more likely to have more frequent migraine attacks than those without allergies.

Additionally, researchers found that patients with mixed rhinitis — irritation and inflammation of the nasal mucous membrane from both allergic and non-allergic triggers — fared worse than others. They were 45 percent more likely to experience more frequent headaches and 60 percent more likely to endure headaches more disabling than those without rhinitis.

The study included information from almost 6,000 people living with migraine disease who took part in the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study in 2008. It is one of the first studies to link the frequency of migraines and rhinitis. Researchers, however, have not determined what causes this link.

“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,” Dr. Martin said. “What we can say is if you have these symptoms, you are more likely to have more frequent and disabling headaches.”

Richard Lipton, MD, co-director of the Headache Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, a neurology professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University and a principal investigator of the study, noted the findings’ potential implication for treatment.

“The nose has largely been ignored as an important site involved in the initiation and exacerbation of migraine headache,” Dr. Lipton said. “If rhinitis exacerbates migraine, as these results suggest, treating rhinitis may provide an important approach to relieving headache in people with both disorders.”

The report was published online Nov. 25 in the journal Cephalalgia.

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