If you suffer from migraines – or know someone who does – you are not alone. The Migraine Research Foundation (MRF) estimates that around 38 million people in the United States alone – and 1 billion people around the world – suffer from these painful headaches. 18% of women, 6% of men and 10% of children in America suffer from these headaches – and they are responsible for around 1.2 million visits to the emergency room every year.
In short, it is a major medical problem. But though migraines can sometimes be difficult to treat, new research coming out of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital could help doctors develop more effective plans of care.
Why Migraines are So Difficult
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a number of reasons why migraines can be so difficult to live with. First, they are a cause of excruciating pain, usually on one side of the head, and can cause other problems like nausea and vomiting, visual disturbances like flashes of light before the eye and extreme sensitivity to lights and sounds. And while some people only get these headaches occasionally, others can have them on almost a daily basis.
One of the most frustrating things about migraines is that they can be caused by a number of other issues, including hormonal changes, changes in the level of serotonin (the “feel good” chemical in the brain), some medications (like birth control and nitroglycerin), and certain foods and food additives (especially MSG). Some of these things can be avoided while others cannot.
The new research coming out of Ohio, however, might prove to be helpful to patients and doctors struggling to manage this condition, as low vitamin levels are emerging as another possible cause for this problem.
What the New Research Found
This new research is coming out of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital (CCH), one of the top pediatric hospitals in the country and was led by Dr. Suzanne Hagler, a fellow in the division of Neurology and a professor at the hospital’s Headache Center.
This study was based on research drawn from patients at the Headache Center itself. The study looked at the records of migraine patients – children, teens and young adults. Specifically, researchers focused in on the vitamin D, coenzyme Q 10, folate and riboflavin levels of these patients, since in the past, it was believed that low levels of these nutrients can cause or exacerbate migraines.
What the study found was that there is a definite link between mildly low levels of vitamin D – as well as coenzyme Q 10 and riboflavin, though no such link was found with folate. In greater detail, scientists working on this study discovered that:
- Overall, a high percentage of migraine patients showed lower than normal levels of vitamin D, CoQ-10 and riboflavin.
- While women and girls were more likely to have lower levels of CoQ-10, men and boys were more likely to have mild vitamin D deficiencies.
- People with occasional migraines were less likely to have low levels of CoQ-10 and riboflavin than those who have them on a more regular basis.
While more research needs to be done on this subject, it opens up an interesting line of study. In the future, doctors who are working with their patients to come up with a plan of care to manage this condition. If stronger links are found between low levels of these vitamins and minerals and the occurrence of migraines, then the use of supplements and dietary counselling on how to get higher levels of these nutrients in the diet might well become a larger part of migraine treatments.
In short, migraines can be caused by a number of different factors – and some are easy to control, while some are not. But the new research out of Ohio is drawing attention to the fact that vitamin deficiencies – which are relatively easy to treat – might play a larger role in this condition than people realized in the past. And this can give doctors and patients the ability to help treat migraine using supplements and specific diets to aid in the plan of care.