Do migraines increase the risk of multiple sclerosis or, might MS raise the risk of developing migraines?
First off, if you’re a migraine headache sufferer, you can breathe easy.
“Having migraines does not increase the risk of having MS,” says Achillefs Ntranos, MD, a board certified neurologist specializing in multiple sclerosis and demyelinating diseases, and chief neurologist with Treat MS.
“However, MS inflammation can cause migraine-type headaches, and patients with MS have migraine-type headaches more frequently than the rest of the population.
“MS patients with headaches have a disproportionate number of lesions located in the area of the brain that controls facial sensation, which is called the brainstem.”
Though you might have always known that the brainstem is responsible for vital, automatic functions such as breathing, heart rate, heart rhythm and blood pressure, it also helps coordinate the messages that regulate facial sensation.
If messages that regulate facial sensation are disrupted by MS lesions, this can lead to headache pain.
“Of note, migraines can cause brain lesions that look like MS lesions to the untrained eye,” says Dr. Ntranos.
“An MS expert would be able to differentiate between these two types of brain lesions and help clarify the diagnosis.”
Dr. Ntranos is the chief neurologist and MS specialist at Treat MS. His goal is to combine concepts of personalized medical management with evidence-based clinical decision making to maximize the treatment benefit for each MS patient.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.