Could Asthma Increase the Risk of Developing Chronic Migraine?

In individuals with episodic migraine (EM), asthma is associated with an increased risk of the onset of chronic migraine (CM), with risk increasing in those with the greatest amount of respiratory symptoms, according to a new study.

“Migraine and asthma are comorbid chronic disorders with episodic attacks thought to involve inflammatory and neurological mechanisms. Herein, we assess the influence of asthma on the clinical course of EM,” researchers wrote. 

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For their study, researchers followed 4446 individuals with EM identified in 2008. Participants also completed a 6-item asthma questionnaire and provided follow-up data in 2009. The primary outcome of the study was development of CM within 1 year, and was defined as 15 or more headache days per month.

Overall, 2.9% of participants developed CM, including 5.4% of patients with asthma and 2.5% of those without asthma. Adjusted odds ratio of those with asthma, compared to those without asthma, was 2.1.

Using a Respiratory Symptom Severity Score developed with data from the asthma questionnaire that participants completed, researchers found that the adjusted odds ratio for CM onset increased with the number of asthma symptoms, but only those with the highest scores showed statistically significant increases in the odds of CM compared to those without asthma.

“Asthma is associated with an increased risk of new onset CM 1 year later among individuals with EM, with the highest risk being among those with the greatest number of respiratory symptoms,” they concluded.

“The exact mechanisms underlying this association are unknown, but could suggest mast cell degranulation, autonomic dysfunction, or shared genetic or environmental factors.”

—Michael Potts


Martin VT, Fanning KM, Serrano D, et al. Asthma is a risk factor for new onset chronic migraine: Results from the American migraine prevalence and prevention study. Headache. November 19, 2015 [epub ahead of print]. DOI: 10.1111/head.12731.