Migraines affect 15 percent of the population. Three times as many women get migraines as men, according to Emedicinehealth.com.
A 2008 study found that a form of sensitive skin called cutaneous allodynia may be a risk factor in the development of migraines.
Allodynia is painful sensation caused by an activity that should not cause pain, such as brushing one’s hair, wearing a necklace or rubbing one’s head.
The researchers reviewed the results of 16,573 questionnaires returned by people who have headaches. Originally, 24,000 questionnaires were sent out.
The participants were questioned about the type of headaches they had, frequency, quality of life issues, depression symptoms and other conditions that they have pain from. Sex, age, race and income were also noted.
There were 12 questions specifically targeting the symptoms of cutaneous allodynia or painful responses to non-painful activities.
Of the almost 17,000 surveys answered, approximately 12,000 were identified as having migraines, 1,500 had probable migraines and almost 3,500 had other types of headaches such as tension headaches.
Daily migraine sufferers reported allodynia sensations at a rate of 68 percent and episodic migraine sufferers reported allodynia at a rate of 63 percent.
Those with probable migraine complained of allodynia 42 percent of the time while those with other types of headaches complained of having painful skin sensations 37 percent of the time.
People who were both obese and had migraines, or had depression and migraines, had a higher incidence of allodynia. Women had higher rates of migraines overall.
Study author Marcelo E. Bigal, MD, PhD, with Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY told Sciencedaily.com. that "this condition may be a risk factor for migraine progression, where individuals have migraines on more days than not. Identifying risk factors for progression is a very important public health priority.”
WebMD noted that researchers believe there may be a link between female hormones and skin pain associated with headaches. “The study shows that the pain areas in the brain changed as women went through their menstrual cycle, with the most pain being reported during menstruation.”
The NHS (National Health Service) pointed out that there might be limitations to this study as there is no gold standard to describe allodynia, so participants may have interpreted those questions differently.
However, identifying any possible risk factors for migraines can lead to better treatment and earlier identification so that medications used to halt the headaches are more effective.
The study was supported by the National Headache Foundation through a grant from Ortho-McNeil Neurologics, Inc.
Migraine Headache. Emedicinehealth.com. Retrieved Dec. 1, 2012.
Sensitive skin a symptom of migraine. NHS choices. Retrieved Dec. 1, 2012.
Migraines May Up Risk of Painful Skin. WebMD. Retrieved Dec. 1, 2012.
Migraine Increases Risk Of Severe Skin Sensitivity And Pain. ScienceDaily, 22 Apr. 2008. Retrieved Dec. 1, 2012.
Skin Pain, Sensitivity Rises With Migraine. Retrieved Dec. 1, 2012.
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s healthcare and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles
Edited by Jody Smith
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