Medical Research

Endometriosis and Migraines

Endometriosis impacts many areas of a woman’s health aside from infertility. A new study this month of 391 adolescent girls in the Boston area revealed that those with a surgically-diagnosed case of endometriosis were far more likely to suffer from migraines. Today we fail to diagnose endometriosis in a timely fashion and thus the presence of migraines may be a useful clue towards better early detection.

What The Study Showed

This study compared the self-reported frequency and pain of migraines amongst two populations: adolescent girls with surgically-diagnosed endometriosis and girls of a similar demographic with no such diagnosis.

After adjusting for differences in population, researchers determined that those with endometriosis were 5x more likely to suffer from migraines than the comparable group.

Strikingly, researchers also saw a close linear relationship between the severity of migraine pain and the odds of endometriosis - the more painful the migraines were, the more likely it was that a subject had endometriosis. On a pain scale of zero through ten, for each one point increase in pain the odds of endometriosis increased by 22%.

Limitations & Takeaway

One limitation of this study is that the girls who had confirmed endometriosis were much more likely to have taken hormonal medications, which could increase the risk of migraines. Additionally, self-reported measures of frequency and pain are oftentimes subjective and thus less reliable. Finally, its plausible that some girls in the "general population" comparator arm would have also had a confirmed case of endometriosis had they been checked making some of the researcher's conclusions slightly less clean.

That said, this is a strong study and after adjusting for multiple variables it seems clear that adolescent girls with endometriosis are much more likely to suffer from migraines. This seems to corroberate a quickly growing body of evidence from clinicians like Yang, Ferrero, Nyholt and Morotti who've drawn the same conclusion in adult women.

The implication here is that this presents a useful signal to help us diagnose women more accurately and at a younger age, opening the door to provide treatment years earlier than when otherwise might be the case.

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