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Study Reveals Significant Comorbid Link Between ADHD and Migraines

More than a third of women with ADHD and 22.5% of men with ADHD who participated in a recent study also reported experiencing migraine headaches, which suggests a strong comorbid link between the two conditions in adults, particularly women in their 50s.

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November 8, 2018

We don’t have to tell you that attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) can be a headache — particularly for adults not properly diagnosed and, thus, treated.

Now, a new study suggests that ADHD and migraines, extremely painful headaches associated with other symptoms like nausea and light sensitivity, are “comorbid conditions” in adults — meaning they often occur together. These findings were published on October 16 in the journal BMC Neurology.

Historically, adults with ADHD who experience headaches — though not necessarily migraines — have attributed them to side effects of their prescribed medications. However, the relationship between migraines and ADHD may be more complex than that, according to the BMC Neurology study, performed by a team of researchers from the Danish Headache Center and the Institute of Biological Psychiatry in Copenhagen, Denmark.

For their work, the authors assessed 26,456 adult participants from the Danish Blood Donor Study for both ADHD (using currently accepted diagnostic criteria) and migraine (relying on participant self-reporting). A study of the data revealed that adults with ADHD were nearly twice as likely to report experiencing migraines than were those respondents who did not have ADHD. This comorbidity was most prevalent among ADHD patients in their 50s, and among women with ADHD.

The authors also said they believe that people who have a genetic predisposition to one of the two conditions may actually be predisposed to both. Migraines in all patients were also associated with mood and anxiety disorders.

In addition, the study noted that adults with ADHD were more likely to experience migraine symptoms like visual disturbance. In general, roughly one in five adults will experience migraines, and the condition is more common in women than in men. Earlier studies have identified a similar relationship between migraines and ADHD in children, but this is the first large-scale study to make the connection in adults. Unfortunately, the authors note that many questions remain, including why the two conditions often occur together and what, if any, predictive risk factors can be used to aid in diagnosis.

“These results contribute to the understanding of genetic correlation seen between ADHD and migraine,” the authors write, “and seeds future studies that will elucidate which genetic and environmental factors contribute to migraine-ADHD comorbidity.”

For those with both conditions, the more information as to cause and optimal treatment the better.

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