Epilepsy and migraines belong to a group of neurological disorders. They have different clinical characteristics and underlying causes. Trigger factors for epilepsy and migraines may differ but there are also some mutual trigger factors capable of initiating both epilepsy and migraines.
In epilepsy neurological dysfunction is associated with abnormal electrical activity inside the brain, to be more precise abnormal transmission of signals between neurons in the brain. As for migraines, scientists have not managed to identify the mechanism of changes inside the brain.
There may be some connection between epilepsy and migraines. Scientist are yet to confirm the actual connection between the two conditions.
As far as headache disorders are concerned, IHS (The International Headache Society) has divided these disorders into two main groups, primary headaches and secondary headaches. Primary headaches have no identifiable underlying cause while secondary headaches are always associated with some disease or injury to the brain. Primary headaches are migraines and tension type headaches as well as cluster headaches. The secondary headaches are considered analogous to the symptomatic epilepsy.
Migraines and Epilepsy - the Connection
It is confirmed that people suffering from one of these two disorders are highly likely to develop the other one. Comorbid disorders (conditions that occur at the same time, one accompanying the primary disease) may be rather challenging when it comes to diagnosis and treatment.
Sometimes it may be impossible to establish the diagnosis of both conditions. Namely, epilepsy is considered a serious condition and if seizures tend to occur more frequently doctors usually focus on treatment and prevention of epileptic attacks recurrence. They may neglect other symptoms which are actually associated with migraines. So migraines in epileptic patients may be overlooked. Diagnostic difficulties become even more complex if the clinical presentation of the two conditions overlap. Still, under certain circumstances it is possible to diagnose both, epilepsy and migraines.
Mechanism of Connection
Headache in people suffering from migraines and epilepsy may not be even reported because prescribed antiepileptic can be efficient enough even against headache and this way prevent the condition from being diagnosed.
The connection between these two disorders is rather complex and definitely multifactorial. For instance, migraines may initiate epilepsy because of blood deprivation to certain parts of the brain. On the other hand, epilepsy may initiate migraine due to activation of the trigeminovascular system.
All in all, it is confirmed that people suffering from epilepsy are more likely to additionally develop migraines while those with migraines generally do not end up with epilepsy. However, because there is some kind of connection it is always necessary to think of another condition each time a person is diagnosed either with epilepsy or with migraines.