Migraine Present in 30% of MS Patients, Review Study Finds

Marta Figueiredo, PhD avatar

by Marta Figueiredo, PhD |

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MS and migraine

Migraine occurs in one third of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and is more common among American and African patients, according to a review study.

The data support previous findings suggesting this debilitating condition is more common in MS patients than in the general population. Further research is needed, however, to better understand the association between MS and migraine.

The review study, “The prevalence of migraine in multiple sclerosis (MS): A systematic review and meta-analysis,” was published in the Journal of Clinical Neuroscience.

Migraine is a common, chronic debilitating condition characterized by severe pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head, that can be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Attacks can last for hours to days and impair activities during that time.

Migraines have been estimated to be two to three times more common in MS patients than in the general population. Notably, both migraine and MS are more frequent among women, younger people, and Caucasians (as compared with African or Asians).

While previous studies suggested that migraine may precede MS, increasing research points to a link between migraine in MS and interferon-beta treatment (such as AvonexRebif, and Betaseron), since it was found to worsen or trigger headaches, including migraines, in these patients.

Still, the underlying mechanisms of a potential association between MS and migraines remain largely unclear.

Now, researchers in Iran set out to estimate, for the first time, the general frequency of migraine in people with MS by systematically analyzing full studies and conference abstracts reporting prevalence in this patient population up to December 2019.

From a total of 1,500 hits, 11 full studies and 12 conference abstracts, covering a total of 11,372 MS patients, were included in the meta-analysis. Seven studies involved patients in Europe, seven others were from Asian countries, six reported data in America, two in African countries, and one in Australia.

Results showed that migraine occurred in 2,627 (23.1%) of these MS patients, with studies reporting a frequency ranging from 2% to 67%.

The pooled frequency of migraines in MS patients was 31%, which was higher than its 12% estimated prevalence (also here) in the general population.

In addition, migraine frequency was significantly different between continents, being more commonly reported among MS patients living in American (43%) and African (43%) countries and less common in those in Asia (24%) and Europe (25%).

Previous studies also suggested that the general prevalence of migraine also differs between countries and societies, the team noted.

“The results of this systematic review show that the prevalence of migraine in MS patients is 31% while the prevalence differs significantly among residents of different continents,” the researchers wrote.

The team emphasized that lack of data prevented the assessment of frequency based on the type of migraine and type of MS treatment used.