Study Finds Bidirectional Relationship Between Asthma, Migraines


Migraines increase the risk of asthma, and asthma is also associated with an elevated risk of migraine, according to new research.

In the first report of its kind, a recent study compiled Korean Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service data from between 2002 and 2013 to evaluate a bidirectional association between asthma and migraines in Korean adults.

Matching patients and control subjects by age, sex, income, past medical histories, and region of residence, researchers determined asthma and migraines to be reciprocally associated.

“Migraines increase the risk of asthma. Asthma was also associated with an elevated risk of migraine,” researchers said.

In Korea, out of every 1000 adults over the age of 20, between 3.63 and 6.07 suffer from asthma. In addition, approximately 6% of adults in Korea between the ages 19 and 69 suffer from migraines. Worldwide, anywhere from 7% to 18% of the population has asthma and as many as 1.04 billion people experience migraines.

To conduct the study, researchers matched 113,059 patients with asthma to 113,059 control patients, and 36,044 patients with migraines to 114,176 control patients.

In the first cohort, 5.3% of the group with asthma reported experiencing migraines within a follow-up period of around 43 months. This group demonstrated an adjusted hazard ratio (HR) of 1.47 for migraines. In comparison, only 3.4% of the control group reported migraines in the same time period. Although 8% of migraine patients reported having aura in this study, both migraines with and without aura rated higher for presence of asthma than the control group.

In the second cohort, the group suffering from migraines had a 15.4% rate of experiencing asthma after about 42 months, with an adjusted HR of 1.37. In 43 months, the control group reported a 10.6% rate of experiencing asthma.

The researchers were drawn to the question of a reciprocal relationship between the 2 ailments because “The pathophysiology of the hormonal imbalance and environmental triggering factors are common in both migraines and asthma,” they said.

More specifically, atopy, parasympathetic hyperactivity, and elevated neuropeptide secretion are shared pathophysiologic factors of the two conditions.

Additionally, environmental and lifestyle factors such as air pollutants, obesity, and smoking “impact both asthma and migraine,” the researchers said. However, lifestyle factors were not available to include in the study.


Kim SY, Min C, Oh DJ, Lim JS, Choi HG. Bidirectional association between asthma and migraines in adults: two longitudinal follow-up studies. Sci Rep. 2019;9(18343):1-24. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-54972-8.

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