While we’re still learning the full connection between epilepsy and migraines, we do know they often happen together. People with epilepsy or migraines are very likely to have both conditions:
- It’s two times more likely that people with epilepsy will suffer from migraines than people without epilepsy.
- It’s also two times more likely that people with migraines will suffer from epilepsy (although it usually doesn’t develop without another risk factor like a stroke or head injury).
A migraine versus a headacheUnlike a typical headache, migraines are very severe headaches that can keep you from your normal activities. Many people are very sensitive to light, noise or other stimulation when they’re having a migraine. Typical headache remedies, such as aspirin, don’t usually work to relieve migraine pain. Migraines can happen as little as once every few months or much more frequently.
Similarities between epilepsy and migraines
Doctors and researchers continue to study the relationship between migraines and epilepsy. There are a few similarities in how your body reacts to migraines and seizures:
- Both seizures and migraines are triggered by overactive brain activity.
- Both conditions tend to run in families.
- People with epilepsy or migraines can have periods of active illness alternating with times that are symptom-free.
- Shared physical symptoms include headache, numbness in the arms and face, or nausea and stomach pain.
- Both conditions may have the same triggers, including stress, lack of sleep, alcohol consumption and changes in medication.
Can migraines cause seizures or can seizures cause migraines?
Although it’s possible that a migraine may trigger a seizure, it’s also possible to have what’s called an “aura.” An aura causes tingling and numbness or makes you to see spots, sparks or lines. This is different from an epileptic seizure.
However, an aura can occur just before a migraine — or just before an epileptic seizure.
While migraines may trigger seizures in someone with epilepsy, there is no proof that migraines cause any damage to the brain that makes it epileptic.
Epilepsy often leads to headaches that are as painful as a migraine, but are actually a signal that a seizure is about to start.
Our epilepsy team has the experience to treat your migraines and seizures
Many people with epilepsy don’t mention their headaches to their doctor because they believe it’s just part of their chronic condition.
However, there are ways we can differentiate between epilepsy and migraines. We’ll review the type and frequency of your headache pain, and we may also use imaging tests to confirm a diagnosis.
If you’re diagnosed with migraines in addition to your epilepsy, there are treatments that can provide better pain control. This can include medication, lifestyle changes or even alternative therapies like muscle relaxation techniques or acupuncture.
Whatever migraine treatment is chosen, we’ll always monitor you to make sure nothing interferes with the effectiveness of your epilepsy care.