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Genetics and migraine: from origin to treatment 


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 15 and 18% of the global population suffers from migraines, with severe or chronic cases being suffered by 4 out of every 100 people worldwide. This neurological disorder greatly hampers the daily lives of sufferers, who are often unable to carry out any kind of activity during the acute phase of the pain. 

In addition to being a highly underestimated public health problem (according to the WHO itself, despite its lack of recognition, migraine is the sixth most disabling disease), suboptimal attention to these problems also causes a high financial cost to society due to the absenteeism from work that they cause, since the symptoms are more severe during people’s productive years. 

genetic testing and migraines

Treatment of migraines

The adequate treatment of these disorders is based on three points:

  • The training and correct formation of health professionals to establish accurate diagnoses.
  • Adequate treatment with effective drugs. There is a great mistrust towards pharmacological treatments to treat or prevent migraines because, in a large proportion, they do not produce relief of symptoms and, however, can cause side effects.
  • Changes in the patient’s lifestyle and education, which can be decisive, since most patients recognize some environmental trigger of the attacks (emotional stress, circadian rhythm alteration, hormonal factors, etc.).

Fortunately, in recent years, this problem is being addressed more comprehensively by medical and scientific professionals. 

What role do genetics play in the development of migraine?

A family history of migraine is frequent and the heritability of the pathology is estimated to be relatively high, around 57%, indicating the important role of genetic factors in its development. To date, several association studies (GWAS) have been carried out that have shown around 38 genes associated with migraine, mainly related to vascular smooth muscle and neuronal physiology.  
However, with rare exceptions of monogenic syndromes, migraine is a multifactorial disease highly influenced by genetics and environment, and more studies are still needed to help elucidate the underlying causes. 

There is no cure for migraine, but there are highly effective treatments that help prevent and treat episodes. For these treatments to be as effective as possible, they must be optimized by choosing the best one for the patient and adjusting the most appropriate dose. Here, genetic tests based on pharmacogenetics play a key role. Knowing how you metabolize certain drugs can help you identify the most suitable drugs for you and adjust their dosage according to your genetics.  

Aware that there is still a lot of work ahead in the pharmacological approach to migraines, at tellmeGen we have developed a pioneering observational study in Spain, with our users who suffer from migraines and other types of headaches, which has allowed us to identify genetic markers that can help us to select the most appropriate drugs for each person and, thus, reduce therapeutic failures. This, together with the information already published, allows us to provide more complete results that allow us to choose the most appropriate treatment. 

This is the basis of pharmacogenetics, a scientific discipline which, in recent years, is becoming a reality and which already allows us to identify and adjust the pharmacological compatibility, i.e. the best personal treatment, not only for anti-migraine drugs but for many other treatments as well.

With tellmeGen’s Advanced DNA kit you will be able to know many characteristics that make you unique. Among them, your genetic predisposition to suffer from migraines and the effectiveness of some drugs widely used to control them, such as triptans, gabapentin, ibuprofen or paracetamol. In addition, you will also be able to know your genetic predisposition to more than 50 diseases and your response to more than 150 drugs for the most common diseases.