Are migraines hereditary?
Genes have been found to play a part in determining whether you are likely to get migraines. Migraine is known as a ‘complex genetic disorder’, which means that genes and other causes such as those above interact to make a person more likely to suffer from migraines.
Migraine often runs in families. It is thought that there isn’t one single gene that is responsible, but rather a combination of several genes which increase the risk that you will suffer from migraines.
Even if these genes are present, you may still not get migraines - other factors such as stress or hormonal changes may also play a part in whether you develop migraines.
In 2010, a gene called TRESK was found to be directly linked to a common type of migraine.
Researchers at Université de Montréal and the University of Oxford compared the DNA from migraine sufferers to that of non-sufferers and found a mutation in the KCNK18 gene that interrupted TRESK function in members of a large family suffering from migraine with aura (visual disturbances including flashing lights and loss of vision). All those who suffered from migraine also had the mutation.
A further study in 2014 showed the presence of several KCNK18 gene mutations in both migraine with aura and migraine without aura.
The findings of both these studies showed that certain common types of migraine could be hereditary, although the researchers said that further studies are needed into the precise role of this gene in determining whether certain people are more likely to suffer from migraines.
This is because complex genetic orders are hard to understand as picking out the precise genes that cause a particular condition is very difficult due to the way genes combine differently in different people.