photoWhy do some people get migraine headaches and some don't? Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston believe genetics has a lot to do with it.

Writing in the British journal Nature Genetics, researchers said they found variations in three genes that showed up more frequently in migraine patients. Two of them, known as PRDM16 and TRPM8, were specific to migraines.

A migraine is a severe, almost “sick” headache in which the sufferer sometimes has clouded vision, or sees an aura around objects. While the specific cause is unknown, scientists describe it as a brain disorder in which brain cells respond abnormally.

About 20 percent of the population is said to suffer from migraine headaches and most are women. In the new research, the scientists said at least one of the problem genes is exclusively found in women.

"While migraine remains incompletely understood and its underlying causes difficult to pin down, identifying these three genetic variants helps shed light on the biological roots for this common and dibilitating condition," said lead author Dr. Daniel Chasman.

Communication breakdown

Meanwhile, a study commissioned by the National Headache Foundation (NHF) and GlaxoSmithKline suggests migraine sufferers could be getting more relief from doctor visits.

The survey, conducted online in November 2010 by Harris Interactive, included 1,218 diagnosed migraine patients taking prescription medications for their migraine attacks as well as 533 physicians who treat between five and 10 migraine patients per week. The findings revealed disparities between what patients and physicians each reported typically discussing during office visits.

According to the survey, migraine sufferers see their doctor an average of six times per year, but most of the visits are to deal with another health issue, not the headaches.

“The survey results show patients and physicians are having important conversations about migraine management; however, these conversations are not always robust or the primary purpose of a patient’s visit, making discussion priorities unclear,” said Robert Dalton, executive director of the National Headache Foundation. “For example, patients may not always recall key pieces of information from these conversations or physicians may be misinterpreting what is being emphasized to the patient or the time doctors devote to a particular topic during these discussions.”

 Forty-one percent of patients ajnd 61 percent of physicians also said they wished they could have more discussions with each other about patients’ satisfaction with prescription migraine medications. Nearly half of physicians and more than one-quarter of patients, however, said that having more pressing health issues to discuss prevented them discussing prescription migraine medication options.