A new study from scientists in South Korea has found a link between migraine and an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), an umbrella term for conditions that include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
According to Medical News Today, the study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
“The data in this report supports previous reports of an association between migraine headaches and IBD,” said Dr. Brooks D. Cash, a professor and chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition at UTHealth Texas, who was not involved with this study.
Migraine affects an estimated more than 10% of people worldwide and occurs most often among people 20 to 50 years of age, says JAMA Network. It is three times more common in women than in men.
Previous studies also found a higher prevalence of migraines or severe headaches among adults with IBD than in those without the condition. The current research that involved more than 10 million people through the nationwide healthcare system for South Korean citizens found that about 3% of the population had IBD. Scientists found that the incidence of IBD was significantly higher in people who had migraine headaches compared to people without migraine.
In addition, those who received a diagnosis of migraine headaches were at higher risk of developing Crohn’s disease with a significant rise after five-year follow-up. Men with migraine were more likely to develop ulcerative colitis than women. Cash said that the results suggest an association between migraine and IBD.
“However, the minimal increase in the odds of developing IBD reported in this study is not sufficient to recommend increased monitoring of patients with migraines for the development of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis,” he told Medical News Today.
Dr. Rudolph Bedford, a board-certified gastroenterologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, said it is important to identify health issues that may trigger IBD so that a doctor may be able to mitigate the symptoms of IBD if they are aware of other medical associations.
“Migraines can be very debilitating, and you may want to identify those people with migraines,” he said. “We don’t normally ask patients with inflammatory bowel disease whether or not they have migraine headaches, so it probably rates as something that should be done more frequently,” he said.
Cash said that the new study opens the door for future investigation on what causes the link between migraine headaches and IBD.
“Are there changes in the out-brain communication pathways or sensory perceptions in the enteric and central nervous system?” he asked. “Is the gut microbiome involved? Are there psychological and stress-mediated factors at play?
“Once clinical relationships such as these have been identified, we need to move toward trying to explain why those relationships may exist,” Cash added. “That, in turn, may lead us to develop more targeted and effective therapies that can address multiple symptoms/syndromes.”
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