Are migraines hereditary?  Evidence and treatments

Migraines are a condition that can lead to severe headaches. Researchers have found evidence that genetic factors can cause migraines.

Information from the American Migraine Foundation suggests that over 37 million people in the United States have migraines. Migraines cause severe headaches that can last for hours or days.

Many factors can cause a person to have migraines, including inherited ones. This article will tell you what migraines are, the genetic connection, and when to see a doctor.

Yes, migraines are genetic. Research shows that both genetic and environmental factors can lead to migraines. However, experts aren’t sure how exactly genetic factors cause migraines.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, a person who has a parent with migraines has a 50% chance of developing migraines. The likelihood of developing migraines increases to 75% if both parents have it.

More than half of people with migraines have at least one relative who has it.

In 2021, researchers found that gene variations, or mutations inherited from a person’s parents, could cause migraines. Irregularities in certain genes can mean that some people are more likely to have migraines than others.

Research from 2018 found more than 40 places in a person’s genes where mutations could contribute to migraines.

Experts believe that an accumulation of gene mutations could be responsible for migraines. Researchers in the 2018 study analyzed 1,589 families who had migraine headaches.

The researchers found that these families had a greater amount of migraine-causing genetic variation than the general population.

Certain migraine characteristics may also be related to a strong family history of migraines, such as:

  • Migraine headaches from a younger age
  • more frequent migraine episodes
  • Migraines with aura
  • Migraine headache that requires a person to take medication for an extended period of time

Yes, certain types of migraines have strong genetic links. A person can inherit a form of migraine known as familial hemiplegic migraine (FHM) in an autosomal dominant manner.

This means that a person only has to inherit one copy of the mutated gene in order to have FHM. However, a person will not necessarily have PRT just because they have the mutation.

There are four types of PRT. The type of PRT a person has depends on the gene that is causing them. The four types of PRT are:

  • PRT type 1: Type 1 FHM is the most common FHM caused by mutations in the CACNA1A gene.
  • FHM type 2: This FHM happens due to mutations in the ATP1A2 gene. Type 2 FHM can also be involved in seizures.
  • FHM type 3: Type 3 FHM occurs due to SCN1A gene mutations.
  • FHM type 4: A doctor will diagnose FHM type 4 if they can’t find a gene that is causing the FHM.

Knowing about their genetic link to migraines can help a person diagnose and receive treatment quickly. Knowing that they have a history of migraines can also help family members make the correct diagnosis.

Family members can help each other:

  • Find out migraine triggers and symptoms
  • Find out which treatment option works best
  • determine whether headache patterns have changed over the course of their lives
  • Find out when migraine episodes can occur

Find out what could trigger a migraine episode here.

Migraine is a condition that causes a person to experience moderate to severe headaches. Migraine headaches usually appear on one side of a person’s head, although they can develop on either side.

When a person has an episode of migraine, up to four different stages of symptoms can occur. The stages of a migraine include:


Prodrome, or pre-headache, is the stage of migraine that occurs before a person has a headache. Prodrome can last anywhere from several hours to several days. This stage can include the following symptoms:


Aura is a type of visual disorder that can occur during a migraine episode. About 25% of people who have migraine episodes also experience auras. Auras usually appear before a headache develops.

Aura symptoms typically develop over a period of 5 minutes and can last up to 60 minutes.

Symptoms of the aura include:

  • temporary loss of vision
  • Numbness or tingling sensation in any part of the body
  • blind spots on one or both eyes
  • blurred vision
  • blinking, shimmering lights in sight
  • see geometric patterns

Learn more about migraine auras here.


The headache phase of a migraine can last from 3 hours to 3 days. If a person has a headache for more than 3 days, a doctor or other health professional can help.

Migraine headaches can vary from person to person and episode to episode. The pain can be mild or debilitating. A person who is experiencing a migraine episode may find that the pain moves around their head or stays in one area.

Symptoms of a migraine headache can include:

Learn the difference between migraines and headaches here.


Postdrome is the phase that occurs after a migraine headache. About 80% of people with migraines experience postdrome. Postdrome can last 1-2 days after a migraine headache.

Symptoms of postdrome include:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • fatigue
  • depression
  • euphoria
  • Difficulty understanding things
  • Body aches
  • dizziness
  • Photosensitivity

A person should see a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms:

  • a very sudden headache that starts within a few seconds
  • new symptoms that appear alongside the migraine episode, including:
  • new symptoms with any of the following conditions:
  • new symptoms and pregnant

Rescue workers will work to ensure that a person does not have symptoms of a life-threatening condition. However, rescue workers are usually not specialists in migraines or headaches.

If a person finds that their treatment is not helping to relieve symptoms of migraine episodes, or they have been in pain for a long time, they should contact their migraine specialist.

While there is no cure for migraines, there are several different ways a person can manage their migraine episodes. Medications are a common treatment for migraines. Migraine medication can relieve pain or prevent migraine episodes.

Medications to relieve pain in migraines include:

Medications that prevent migraine episodes include:

Relaxation techniques like mindfulness, yoga, or regular exercise can also help prevent migraine episodes.

Here are some tips for instant migraine relief.

Research has shown that migraines have a strong genetic link. A person who has a relative who has migraines is also likely to suffer from them. Understanding a person’s genetic link with migraines can help them manage them.

Migraine is a condition that causes mild to severe headaches and other symptoms.

There is no cure for migraines, but various medications can relieve pain or prevent migraine episodes.

If a person has a migraine episode for the first time, they should contact their doctor. If a person has any unusual or worrying migraine symptoms, they should seek medical help right away.