Study Links Colic in Infants to Migraines in
MONDAY, Feb. 20 (HealthDay News) -- Experts are beginning to
believe some that some non-headache health problems in childhood --
such as vomiting and vertigo -- might be linked to migraines later
in life. Now, a new study suggests a connection between mothers
with migraines and colic in infancy.
Colic is a condition marked by excessive crying in an otherwise
"Mothers with a history of migraine were more than two-and-a-half times more likely to have a baby with colic than mothers who didn't have migraine," said study author Dr. Amy Gelfand, a pediatric neurologist with the Headache Center at the University of California, San Francisco.
The findings were released online Feb. 20 and Gelfand and
colleagues will present them in April at the American Academy of
Neurology's annual meeting in New Orleans.
The researchers developed a questionnaire to help pinpoint
whether a baby had colic and to identify mothers who had been
diagnosed with a migraine, a condition believed to have a strong
"We surveyed the mothers when they brought their babies into the pediatrician's office for their two-month well-baby check-up," Gelfand said.
Data from 154 mothers and their babies showed that nearly 29
percent of the babies whose mothers had a history of migraine had
colic, compared with about 11 percent of babies whose moms did not
"There was a trend when fathers answered the survey, too," Gelfand added. She said 93 survey-takers answered paternal migraine history questions. The results: about 22 percent of colicky babies had a father with migraine compared to only nearly 10 percent of the babies who did not have the condition.
Chronic and often disabling, migraine headaches affect more than
29 million Americans, according to the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services' Office on Women's Health.
Three-quarters of migraine sufferers are women and previous
research suggests about half of migraine sufferers remain
"The bottom line is that migraine is an inherited disorder that involves the whole body," said neurologist and pain medicine specialist Dr. Joel Saper, director of the Michigan Headache & Neurological Institute, in Ann Arbor.
Saper, who was not involved in the study, said people who are
prone to migraine react to overstimulation throughout the course of
their lives. He said the new research suggests "it's very possible
colic is an early manifestation of migraine."
Saper explained that babies and children have immature nervous
systems that don't work the same way as an adult's. He said
migraine -- a neurological condition -- might manifest differently
in babies and children.
"The underlying pathophysiology might be the same, but the reflexes are different," Saper said.
The researchers said colic did not appear to be linked to the
sex of a child. Also, while they did not ask whether babies were
breast- or bottle-fed, other studies suggest colic rates do not
differ for the two groups of infants, Gelfand noted. She said it's
still being debated whether cow's milk protein might play a role in
some children, though.
Currently, most parents are advised to wait out the weeks or
months it takes for colic to resolve, to sooth and hold their baby,
and to ask for help -- a parent time-out -- if the chronic crying
Commenting on the study, pediatrician Dr. Tai Lockspeiser, an
assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado
School of Medicine and Children's Hospital Colorado, said, "All
babies cry and colic is just one end of the spectrum." She
recommends "the 5 S's System" made popular by Dr. Harvey Karp:
swaddling, sucking, side-lying, shushing and swaying. "There are
some great YouTube videos of this online that demonstrate exactly
what these are," Lockspeiser said.
For her part, Gelfand said that "it's too early to change any
kind of protocol for colic. But this gives pediatricians and
neurologists another hypothesis to consider. Parents could try
non-medication strategies that help some adult migraine sufferers,
"Turning down loud music, going to a quiet room and decreasing stimulation might help," Gelfand said. She also suggested moms and dads keep a "crying diary" to track when colic flare-ups tend to occur and anything that seems to calm the baby.
Saper said the new research offers another clue into the
evolution of migraine in an individual. "We are now able to say
this child may be on a pathway."
The next research step will be to follow the babies over the
years, said Gelfand.
"Right now we're using the mothers' migraines, but what we really want to know is do these babies themselves go on to have migraine," she said.
The data and conclusions of this research should be viewed as
preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
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