Headaches and Genetics

Although headaches are one of the most common medical complaints, relatively little is known about their causes. Primary headaches may have a genetic component to them, meaning that if someone in your family experiences certain types of headaches, you may be prone to them as well. In many cases, your race, gender, and age are some of the other genetic factors that may predispose you to certain types of headache.

There are often structural similarities in family members that are genetically related. This does not mean the symptoms are genetic but family members often going through similar treatment regimens.

Migraine

This type of headache usually presents itself unilaterally, meaning on one side of the head, and is frequently accompanied by nausea and sometimes vomiting. Many people experience an aura a few minutes to an hour before the onset of the migraine headache.

Migraine headaches seem to run in the family and studies are continually conducted to determine if there is a definite tie. There is a strong concordance of migraines in twins, whether reared separately or together. Some specific mutations of a rare form of migraine appear to suggest genetic disposition.

Some problems with the vascular make-up of the brain appear be inherited and may contribute to the prevalence of migraine headaches.

Other risk factors include:

  • Being female
  • Being young
  • Association with menstrual period
  • Extraction of bicuspids for orthodontics
  • Sleep disorders

Cluster

Cluster headaches also seem to run in the family. If your parents or siblings have ever experienced a cluster headache, chances of you experiencing them increase.

So far, no specific gene has been isolated as being a contributing factor to cluster headaches.

Other risk factors include:

  • Race – African Americans have a higher prevalence of cluster headache
  • Being male
  • Being older

Tension

Because the incidence of tension headaches is so high affecting approximately 90 percent of the population, it is difficult to correlate incidence of tension headaches through genetics.

Anecdotal evidence provides an argument that tension headaches do have some genetic disposition. Several studies of incidence in twins show some concordance between genetics and prevalence of tension type headaches, but results are still inconclusive.  Patients with misaligned bites are especially prone to tension headaches.

Other risk factors include:

  • Being female
  • Being middle-aged

The ultimate goals for people who suffer from headaches are to stop the pain as quickly as possible and prevent headaches from recurring. Studies in genetic relationships help dentists determine if you are more susceptible to headaches based on family history. Once they understand that, they may be able to help you minimize headache intensity and duration. If you would like to learn more about headaches and genetics, schedule a consultation with one of our experienced dentists at iHATEheadaches.com.

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