As if suffering from migraines were not bad enough, if you do, you are also more likely to experience irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a new study suggests.
The possible genetic link between the two will be presented in a paper in April at the American Academy of Neurology’s 68th Annual Meeting in Vancouver.
Migraine and IBS already have something in common – despite being very widespread conditions, no one knows what causes either.
“Since headache and irritable bowel syndrome are such common conditions, and causes for both are unknown, discovering a possible link that could shed light on shared genetics of the conditions is encouraging,” says Derya Uluduz, doctor of medicine at Istanbul University and author of the study.
The possible link was uncovered when the researchers found differences in the serotonin transporters in people suffering from each condition.
The study gathered 107 migraine sufferers, 107 people with IBS, 53 who experience more common, tension-type headaches (which account for nearly 90% of all headaches), and 53 people with no reported headaches or IBS symptoms.
The participants with migraine or tension-type headaches were examined for symptoms of IBS, while those with IBS were asked about their experience with headaches.
The results showed that participants suffering from migraine were twice as likely to suffer from IBS as those with tension-type headaches.
Of the patients with IBS, 35.5% also experienced migraines.
The researchers then went on to examine the genes that transport serotonin in each participant, hoping to find a link between those experiencing IBS and migraine.
In both cases, the study found that serotonin transporters took on different forms in participants suffering from IBS and migraines, as compared with the control group.
While Uluduz says more study is needed to investigate the possible link, she is hopeful the findings will contribute to knowledge around both IBS and migraine.
“Discovering shared genes may lead to more future treatment strategies for these chronic conditions,” she says.
Amy Middleton is a Melbourne-based journalist.
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