Hereditary Plays a Major role In Migraine Headaches Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC


A number of researches published in American Journal of Human Genetics showed a strong correlation between Migraines and hereditary. However, the gene responsible for Migraine is still not identified.


A Migraine headache is the worst of all headaches usually felt at one side of the head. It is very agonizing, deep and recurs frequently. It can occur at any stage of life but most frequent occurrence is in children and young adults. Its pain feelings are very bad, pulsating and throbbing, and may make a person incapacitated for days and weeks. It may get started instantly or it may have some preceding signs.

Some warning signs are

  • Dizziness
  • Numbness
  • Flashes of light
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increase sensitivity of light and sound

The etiology determines that due to rapid pulsation of blood vessels in the brain the pain fibers in brain are irritated.

Research studies have shown that the due to alternate widening and narrowing of the walls of the tiny blood vessels in brain the pain fibers are irritated. This causes release of certain chemicals and neurotransmitters that initiate intense pain process. (to be contd.)

Causes and Symptoms of Migraine

There are many other causes of Migraine headaches. Any changes in weather, consumption of certain types of food (like nuts, cheese, avacados, chocolate, nitrate foods e.g. hot dogs), hunger, consumption of drugs like oral contraceptives, alcohol consumption and menstrual disturbances can cause migranes.

A role of heirdaty in migrane can only be determined when all these factors are kept constant. However, apart from its heriditary link these factor can enhance the situation of pain felt.

A person may have vision problems, tingling, weakness in the body, light flashes, difficulty in speech, numbness and other similar kind of symptoms is observed by the person. Headache gradually becomes extremely painful. A person may also have other temporary symptoms like



Sensitivity to light and noise

Things that can trigger migraine

  • Birth control pills (contraceptives)
  • Bright lights
  • Changes in sleep time or wake up time
  • Depression
  • Hormones
  • Loud noises
  • Menstrual cycle
  • Missing meals or fasting
  • Stress
  • Strong smells
  • Tiredness
  • Weather Changes

List of foods that can initiate a migraine




processed meat




hot dogs,


Aged cheese

Alcohol (esp red wine)

Aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal)










Brewer’s yeast,

fresh yeast

coffee cake,


sourdough bread

Caffeine (excessive consumption)

Canned soup or bouillon cubes

Chocolate, cocoa, and carob

Cultured dairy products, such as buttermilk and sour cream



 Meat tenderizer

Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Nuts and peanut butter

Onions, except small amounts for flavoring


Passion fruit

Pea pods

Pickled food (olives, pickles)

Preserved & marinated foods (snack foods)


Red plums


Seasoned salt

Snow peas

Soy sauce

Types of Migraine

Migraines can be of different types. The one that starts with warning signs of flashing light, numbness, weakness, dizziness and other similar symptoms is called classic Migraine. While the one with that starts suddenly without any warning signs is common type of Migraine. In both cases it is extremely painful and may be accompanied with nausea, vomiting, vision and hearing problems.

Common Migraine

Sudden onset

Nausea & vomiting

Abdominal discomfort and pain

Classic Migraine

Vision problems

Double vision,

Partial blindness

Eyesight changes




speech problems (slurring)

Hereditary Role in Migraine

A great deal of research is involved in investigating the role of genetic inheritance in occurrence of Migraine headaches. Genes have a definite role in Migraines. Migraines occur since childhood and particular kind of preceding signs like aura or visual signals confirms that hereditary is one of its major cause.

Individuals whose parents had already suffered from Migraine have higher risks of developing them. Prevelance of migraine is much higher in female than males. Risk of developing migraine is much higher if both parents are affected. This determines the essential role heredity plays in migraine headaches.

Prevelance of migraine is also high in younger people than grown ups elderly. Women have much higher risk of developing them. They are not spreadable by a touch or any kind of contact with other people but its simply an hereditary condition that can occur in kids of suffering parents.

Women are most frequent victims of migraine headaches. Studies have shown that there might be an involvement of female hormones in its etiology. Few researches have confirmed that hormonal fluctuations play a key role in its occurrence. Disturbances in menstrual cycles may also initiate migraine headache. Use of certain drugs, alcoholism, contraceptives all can initiate migraine.

Role of Genes

On the other hand, they are very good visual learners. They can easily learn by looking at things or words instead of listening. Because of their visual powers, their learning involves more reading then listening.

A cell is a basic unit of a human body. Human cells have a nucleus that stores genes. Every human body contains a pair of 23-chromosomes. One pair comes from the father and the other from the mother totaling of 46 chromosomes. Migraine is a condition when the 21st chromosome contains one extra copy of chromosome, totaling 47 chromosomes instead of 46. That is why it is also called Trisomy 21. There are three types of Migraine namely Standard Trisomy 21, Translocation, and Mosaic. The vast majority of Migraine victims that is 94% contains Standard Trisomy 21. If the extra chromosome 21st material is attached to another chromosome it is called Translocation and it contains 4% of the people having Migraine. The least found Migraine’s type is Mosaic. In this condition only some of the cells have that extra chromosome 21. Mosaic has only 2% participation among Migraine people.

Migraine is curable in a way that special techniques are used to teach children with it. As like the other disorders, DS children also feel embarrassed due to their physical and mental conditions. Although, it can not be predicted that who can have it, the children with this syndrome can not only learn things to do they can have good jobs and prosperous future. Recently, some of the tests are offered by UK National Screening Committee for the pregnant woman to know if their baby has Migraine (NHS, 2004). Initially they offer a screening test and if the risk of baby with Migraine is higher then the second test is offered. The second test is called diagnostic test. Diagnostic tests are not offered in the initial stage as it could lead to miscarriage.

The paper written by John Longdon Down not only showed the symptoms of the Migraine people but it also showed the mental approach of the people of that era.

Biochemical Factors

The unit on which human body is composed of is called a cell. Each cell of the human body contains 46 chromosomes. 23 of these chromosomes come from mother and 23 from father. Each of human cells has nucleus which contains genes. Human genes are composed of DNA. DNA is like a microfilm which contains human genetic information.

During formation of new baby when new cells are formed, sometimes it happens that the cells of human body has an extra copy of 21st chromosome, this makes a total of 47 chromosomes in one cell. This composition of cell with extra copy of 21st chromosome altogether creates such genetic material which results in Migraine.

Human male contains sperms which are joined by the eggs of female to make a new body. During this formation, 23 chromosomes from male and 23 from female are joined t

o make a new cell having 46 chromosomes. But, it is unknown that a sperm will have 24 chromosomes or

it will be an egg which contains 24 chromosomes therefore, none of the both mother and father could be blamed. The cause of the presence of extra chromosome 21 is still unknown to science. The extra chromosome can be originated by any one of the parent or it can occur at the time of cell division after conception. It can be noted that the cause of migraine is not anything done during or after pregnancy.

The risk of having baby with migrane at an older age is higher than having baby at smaller age. The following table shows risk of having baby with migraine (Macnair, Hicks):

Age of mother Risk of DS baby
20 years  1 in 1,700
25 years  1 in 1,400
30 years  1 in 900
35 years  1 in 400
40 years  1 in 100
45 years  1 in 35

Psychological Factors

Migraine is not a disease, viral effect, but a syndrome. A syndrome is a combination of common symptoms found in people that is listed by doctors or researchers to form a group. Migraine has 50 clinical signs but not all of them could be found in one person. It is even uncommon to find most of them in a single person.

People with Migraine lost memory with age. Their growth is already slower than other people and their body is not as resistant as the other people. That’s why they start loosing memory before other people do.

The onset of menstruation in young women with learning difficulties can be a particularly stressful time (Rutter and Sawtell, 1995). Some of the problems which could be faced by young women are using pads, pain, sight of blood and even a risk of unwanted pregnancy. The young girl, as it’s difficult for her to express completely, could be stressed when having periods. Parents or guardians should be aware of this stress and therefore it is better to tell her in advance about the periods, why they happen and what are the reasons. If she has knowledge it may reduce her stress and she could be able to manage during periods. The feeling of sadness or bad mood during menstruation should be given her before periods start. The bleeding, as it could be horrified to her (even to a normal girl), must be told in advance with informing the period of 2-7 days of bleeding. Pads’ reason should be told that they stop blood getting on the girl’s clothes. It should be remembered that there is not difference of anything for menstrual period in the Migraine women.

This can also be noted that women with Migraine can have babies. Menstruation proves that a woman has eggs inside her body (Rutter and Sawtell, 1995). If that egg will meet a sperm the fertilization can take place. It is also true for man with Migraine that they can become fathers of children (Seyman, 1995). Only they cannot express their feelings and emotions clearly otherwise they have a lovely heart. They can be affected with love and hate as other people are affected.

Sleep disorders are more likely to occur in the children with Migraine then general population’s children. Children with Migraine are easy victims of sleep disorders because of their physical condition. The muscles of children with Migraine are normally floppy therefore muscles in the throat are also floppy. Whereas, their tonsils are large as well as adenoids that gives them a smaller upper airway (Stone, 2001). This is why these children have problems with respiration and hence can not sleep properly. To resolve this issue one need to consult therapist who has knowledge and experience of dealing with Migraine children.

A very disturbing factor for the children with Migraine is dysfluency. This term is used by speech and language therapists to describe the stammering or getting stuck during speech. This causes difficult for others to understand these children. It is also found in different researches that almost half of the people having Migraine can not easily maintain fluency. The particular difficult area of speaking is when these people use more complex language structures conveying more complex ideas. Dysfluency is also caused by the hard to speak vocabulary and they cannot communicate on topics with strong emotions (Leela Baksi)

Children with Migraine seem to have behavioural problems but it is not because of Migraine. These children have same needs and emotions as other children. The first factor of behaviour problem is ‘attention’. Every child want attention, they want to be centre of attention this is same for the children with Migraine and if there is lacking in attention, children starts misbehaving. Children with Migraine are used to of having an adult at their side, all the time, caring and helping them. They also behaves normally in the situations where an adults insist to do something not suitable for them but they want to do because normal people do that. This behaviour lead to misbehaving and they may be naughty, disobedient, etc. As their chronological age is not equal to developmental age their behaviour is more appropriate to a younger child (Education support pack).

The frequency of Migraine is 1 in every 1000 births affecting boys and girls equally. Children with Migraine have same developmental stages but with very slow rate as compared to normal children. Infants with this disease suffer from hypotonia. Their muscles appear floppy with very low muscle tone. They develop teeth late and in unordered unpredictable fashion. At the age of one they can sit and stand and pick things.

Familial and Social Factors

Families influenced the most on the development of babies. Society or community influences on the individual through its attitudes and opportunities given to that individual (Beckley, 2000). Schools are the biggest part of society in the early ages. Against 20 or 25 years ago when children with Migraine do not go to school it is now recognized that these children have a right to learn and they are capable of learning different things. But, the schools are focusing on practical skills instead of curriculum activities because schools assume that children with Migraine can not learn to read (Beckley, 2000).

Parents raising a child with a developmental disability face challenges that are not shared by parents of typically developing children (Stoneman, 1997). To participate in the community one should have friendships, social relationships and independence skills (Alton, 2001). It takes longer for people with special needs to adjust with the new environment. They find it harder to learn rules, routines, and organizational skills with decisions making in the new environment.

It is now a part of history when Migraine children were thought to be uneducable and were put at home. But in 1971 Education Act recognized that no child is uneducable. It was also recognized that children with learning disabilities pertains right to go to school. From then, children with Migraine are not only part of the education world, they are actively participating in different careers and competing like other people do.

The speech and language therapists are helping people to cope with speech disorders and parents are getting aware of problem like speech disorder, dysfluency, etc. It is a big responsibility over family as well as the society to encourage people with Migraine. Particularly with speech disorder it is utmost responsibility of the society to give them a place. They are very sharp at visual arts and can be beneficial for family and society and including people with Migraine also encourage them to participate in the social events, meetings and on the high, they could do some work for the betterment of the society. Their growth is slower than normal and its reason is also unknown (DSMIG 2005).

Family and society can also be very much disturbed of the short-term auditory memory, also known as working memory or verbal memory. This memory is used by human to articulate spoken language and it directly relates our speed of articulating words while affecting the speed at which children learn new words and learn to read (Alton, 2000). That is why these people can be provided to read books, work with visuals, or learn vocational subjects. Because of their high visual powers, they could be very useful part of the society and can provide a lot of benefits to the family and society.

Majority of the Migraine people are born with a malformed heart which not only put them on the risk of death but their families are always on medical high alert. This disturbs not only the family but the whole society.

Possible Treatment Options

Over-the-counter medicines that can be helpful in Migraine headaches


Acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol),

A combination of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine (one brand name: Excedrin Migraine),

Ibuprofen (one brand name: Motrin),

Naproxen (brand name: Aleve),

ketoprofen (brand name: Orudis KT).

Prescription drugs

Ergotamine (brand name: Ergostat)

Ergotamine (brand name: Ergostat) + other drugs (Cafergot, Ercaf, Wigraine)

Dihydroergotamine (brand names: Migranal, D.H.E.)

sumatriptan (brand name: Imitrex),

zolmitriptan (brand name: Zomig),

naratriptan (brand name: Amerge),

rizatriptan (brand name: Maxalt),

almotriptan (brand name: Axert),

fravatriptan (brand name: Frova).

Other medicines (brand name: Midrin)

Narcotic (brand name: Stadol nasal spray; this one is used occasionally when pain is too strong)


Migraines are basically headache in part or all of the head, sometimes occurring behind the eye or in the frontal lobe. The exact causes are unknown but they are related to contraction and expansion of the blood vessels in the brain, these headaches are prevalent in women .The pain can be from moderate to severe and can last from 4 hours to 3 days of reoccurring manner. Symptoms often accompany headaches such as vomiting, nausea, lose of appetite.

Is the above statement true than the answer is yes, migraines are hereditary children with both parents having a history of migraines have a 70% chance of developing the same, and children with one parent who has history of migraine cut their risk from 70% to 25%-50%.Researchers have found migraines which are accompanied by an aura can be blamed to parents. Until recently most researches have been unable to find the gene responsible for these headaches however research on families with migraine have shown that both environmental and heredity play a role in developing the condition.

People who (30%) often suffer  an aura before the occurrence of the headaches,  see wavy lines, spots or flashy lights, their arms, hands and fingers feel numb or tingle the aura usually starts 30 minutes before the headaches begin but most people don’t experience the aura.

Since the only known cause for migraines is contraction and expansion of blood vessels the most effective way of preventing or reducing the pain of these headaches is to prevent the blood vessels from expanding and contracting.

Migraines are diagnosed by the number of times they occur in a period of time, what might have triggered these headaches, do they occur with or without an aura, how many hours they last for, experiencing of symptoms such as vomiting, nausea etc

Many pain relievers are taken to reduce pain but they are also held responsible for rebound headaches, medication taken for immediate relief in large amounts can cause rebound headaches but small amounts can be safe and provide relief to some point.

Many of these headaches are related to triggers which cause them to occur ,it can be due to stress ,unhealthy diet ,noise pollution, air pollution or even grinding or clenching of teeth.

Headaches can be prevented or  the frequency of the headaches can be reduced by identifying the triggers and avoiding them ,following doctors plan and only taking specified medications, avoiding emotional stress ,eating healthy foods ,getting proper sleep, stop smoking, reduce physical stress and exercising regularly and also by following a regular routine such as eating at same time everyday.

Works Cited

Migraine Headache. Retrieved from

Vogin, G.D.(2002) Genetic Link to Migraine Found. WebMD Medical News

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