The key to curing chronic migraines could lie with the ‘female’ gene, claim a team of scientists, and it may also explain why women are more prone to headaches than men.
Researchers from Griffith University, Australia, discovered a link between the X chromosome and migraines, after investigating the genetic data of 300 people living on Norfolk Island - a small island located between Australia and New Zealand.
During the study, researchers discovered that X chromosomes interrupt a gene involved in the brain's regulation of iron. If iron levels dip too far below the 'normal' mark, this can trigger a migraine attack.
An iron-deficiency in the brain (caused by cells not getting enough oxygen) can trigger chronic headaches, due to the lack of oxygen in the brain and bodily tissues.
Females have two X chromosomes while males have an X and a Y chromosome, which could be the reason why women are more susceptible to migraines than men, claim researchers.
According to the Migraine Trust, there are around 190,000 migraine attacks everyday in the UK. Women are more likely to have a migraine attack than men, with 18% of women claiming to have suffered at least once in their lifetime compared to 8% of men.
“These results provide more support for the role of the X chromosome in migraine and may explain why so many more females suffer from the disorder,” explains lead researcher Lyn Griffiths, reports Science Daily.
“Even though we have some very good treatments for this very debilitating disease, they certainly don't work for everyone and can have some adverse side effects. Hence there is a real need to develop new migraine treatments."
The National Health and Medical Research Council funded the study.
Do you suffer from migraines? Take a look at ways to ease, treat and prevent chronic headaches...
If you suffer from regular migraines, your doctor might prescribe you acute (treatment) and prophylactic (prevention) medicine. You may be given the following: Anticonvulsant, such as divaloproex sodium (sodium valproate), topiramate or gabapentin Antidepressant, such as amitriptyline Antihistimine, such as cyproheptadine Beta-blockers, such as propranolol, metoprolol, timolol, nadolol Anti-inflammatory drug, such as pizotefen Not all medication has to be prescibred as you can get the following non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) over-the-counter: Apisrin Ibuprofen Paracetamol Codeine
If you don't want to take medication and prefer to treat the problem mechanically, you can try the following at home: Change your temperature. Try applying an icepack, or a hot water bottle, to the painful area. Hot or cold showers and a long soak in the bath does help some sufferers, or try soaking the hands and feet in hot or cold water. Apply pressure. Try applying pressure to the pulse points on the side of the forehead or neck to relieve the headache. Moderate exercise. Experts claim that easy exercise, like swimming and brisk walking, can have a therapeutic effect on migraines. Keep a diary. Note down symptoms, date and time of attacks and what you've eaten and drunk. This will help you identify possible triggers.
Lack of sodium can be pinpointed as a cause of migraines and could explain why migraine sufferers crave a salty snack after an attack. In moderation, salt can have health benefits, so if you feel the onset of a migraine developing, add a tiny amount of salt into a glass of water and sip slowly.
Some migraine sufferers swear by complementary treatments like the following: Acupuncture. A type of alternative medicine that treats patients by insertion and manipulation of thin needles in the body, stimulating the anatomical locations under the skin called acupuncture points. Chiropractic. Helps treat and prevent neuromusculoskeletal condition by manipulating the spine, joints and soft tissue. Homoeopathy. A form of alternative natural medicine that treats patients with liquid 'remedies' that apparently help relieve pain. Herbalism. An old traditional form of medicine made entirely of plants and plant extracts which help relieve pain and discomfort from within.
It sounds obvious, but a big cause of migraines is down to dehydration. It's currently recommended that people drink between six to eight glasses of water a drink to help keep the body functioning properly.
Botox injections were licensed in 2010 to be used on people suffering from severe headaches and migraines. Although the evidence surrounding this treatment is still inconclusive, previous clinical trials have proved that it makes a difference if administered regularly. The treatment is currently available privately and costs between £400 to £600.