Here’s a conversation I get from time to time when someone hears that I teach people to take control of their migraine.
“Oh, I get migraine. Yes, it runs in our family. My Dad gets it, and my Grandma did too. So, what can you do?”
Accompanied with a resigned shrug. That’s it. End of. Game Over.
And, I have to tell you I always find that a bit odd. My Mum used to get migraine. So did her Mum. But I never thought, well I’ll just have to accept my lot in life. Then the other day a friend asked me what I thought of this article I read it. My answer? Not. Much.
The gist was that yes, migraine – all migraine – is genetic. And guess what? There’s nothing you can do until they invent a suitable gene therapy. So, Good Luck with that. At the very best, the article is misleading. At the worst, it leaves you suffering unnecessarily.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Research on a potential link between migraine and genes has focused on a rare migraine condition called, Hemiplegic Migraine, which occurs in 10% of people who get migraine. In addition to a severe migraine head pain, symptoms also include aura and motor weakness on one side of the body. Aura symptoms can include visual disturbances, such as blind spots, flashing lights, zigzag patterns, sensory less and difficulty with speech.
There are two kinds of hemiplegic migraine; Familial Hemiplegic Migraine (FHM) and Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraine (SHM). With the former there is a family history of migraine, with the latter there is none.
So, what has the research shown so far?
Work has focussed on Familial Hemiplegic Migraine. It appears that mutations in several genes may be a factor in FHM. Inheriting these altered genes may increase a person’s susceptibility to developing this type of migraine. In that regard, that’s not so different to the susceptibility that some people have to developing other conditions, such as heart disease.
The research however has also shown that not everyone who inherits these genes goes on to develop FHM. Current opinion sides towards genetics, although a potential factor, is not the whole enchilada when it comes to migraine. As with most things in life, it is more complex.
Genetics is not quite the whole migraine enchilada
What does it mean if you have been diagnosed with FHM? Well, if right now you’re feeling that in Life’s Great Inheritance Game you’ve been landed with the crocheted dolly toilet roll holder, that’d be understandable.
But there is hope. It is not Game Over.
Remember that some people who do inherit the altered genes never develop FHM. That indicates that different, non-genetic, factors are involved. Factors that you could choose to have control over.
You have a choice. You could choose to sit and do nothing.
And wait until one day, possibly, perhaps, someone inherits a gene therapy that’ll work. But that day is not today. It’s not even tomorrow.
Right now, you may not feel you have avenues to explore. The path may seem dark. It may seem risky. But, I want you to know that with the right support it is possible to find freedom from migraine.
To take that first step forward you only need to do one small thing.
Ask yourself this question, out loud:
“What would I love to change most about how migraine impacts my life?
What’s your answer? Share it below in the comments.