Are Migraines Genetic?

If you have ever had a migraine, you know that they are one of the most debilitating forms of pain there is. In fact, migraines are the sixth most incapacitating illness worldwide, according to the American Migraine Foundation. Moreover, they are the third most common illness in the world. More than 37 million Americans suffer from migraines, with migraines being more common in people under the age of 45, and most migraine sufferers being women (per CDC).

A migraine is technically a neurological disease that involves a throbbing pain that is generally isolated to one side of the head, per Cleveland Clinic. The pain can be so bad that it causes sufferers to become nauseous and sensitive to lights, sounds, and smells. Some people who get migraines experience a visual disruption commonly called an aura with their pain. People with chronic migraines often experience depression, anxiety, and sleep problems. Migraines are not completely understood, which makes it difficult to treat them.

Migraines can be hereditary

While there is much to learn about migraines, researchers know enough about them to know that they are genetic. In fact, your chances of developing migraines is 50 to 75% if one or both of your parents suffer from them, per the American Migraine Foundation. More than 80% of people suffering from migraine have a close family member who suffers from the condition, too (via the National Headache Institute). However, scientists are still working to discover more about the hereditary nature of migraines. Research also suggests that migraines with aura are more likely to be genetic, while non-aura migraines may be, at least in part, environmental. 

While migraines can be hereditary, that doesn't mean your genes make them happen. It's important to pay close attention to your emotions and other factors to help you understand what could be causing your migraines, per the National Headache Institute. For example, certain foods, being dehydrated, sleeping too long, or certain emotions can trigger them. Keeping a diary is one of the most effective ways to help understand triggers.