Family History of Migraine Linked to Earlier Age of Onset, Study Says

Family history with migraine affect male and female patients differently, according to a recent study.

There are different patterns of association in family history and migraine between men and women, according to a recent study. Researchers found a positive family history of migraine correlated with an earlier age at onset, particularly among female patients without aura.

The study, published by PLOS One, involved 299 controls and 885 patients who received outpatient treatment for migraine. Researchers hypothesized that there may be a different pattern of association between family history, age at onset, and sex in migraineurs with (MA) and without aura.

Each study participant completed a screening questionnaire and interview from a board-certified neurologist and headache specialist. Using this data, each patient was categorized by episodic (1-14 days per month) and chronic (15 or more days per month) migraine groups. Besides headache frequency, patients were further divided by factors such as sex and presentation of aura.

Overall, patients with migraine had a higher proportion of first-degree relatives with migraine than the healthy controls.

The analysis of the data from the questionnaires and interview suggested that positive family history was significantly more frequently observed in the episodic group than in the chronic group, chiefly in male patients (49.5% vs. 26%; P <.001).

In male patients without aura, positive family history was observed in 50.3% of the episodic group and 21.9% of those in the chronic group (P <.003).

However, positive family history was less frequently observed in female patients with aura in the episodic group than chronic group, 58.7% vs. 73.7%; P <.048.

For both sexes, those with a family history of migraine had an earlier age of onset than those without (20.7 years vs. 22.8 years; P = .002). But the effect was more pronounced for women; the age of onset was 20.6 years and 23.1 years, with and without a family history of migraine, respectively, and was statistically significant (P = .002).

The difference in age of onset for men was not statistically significant, regardless of family history existed.

The age difference was more clinically significant in females (2.5 years) than in males (1.1 years). After further stratification by aura and sex, this phenomenon was observed only in patients without aura and female patients without aura

“The results of the present study reveal a different pattern of association between family history and migraine in men and women. Moreover, the results demonstrate that a positive family history correlates with an earlier age at onset, particularly among female patients without aura,” the study concluded. “Thus, this study highlights the associations between migraine prevalence, aura, age at onset, family history, and sex. Future studies should investigate these factors in more detail, clarifying the effects of paternal versus maternal relationships and how different forms of migraine in first-degree relatives influence migraine risk.”


Hsu Y-W, Liang C-S, Lee J-T, Chu H-T, Lee M-S, Tsai C-L, et al. Associations between migraine occurrence and the effect of aura, age at onset, family history, and sex: A cross-sectional study [published online February 5, 2020]. PLoS ONE. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0228284.

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