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Lightning May Trigger Migraines

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By Geoffrey V Martin et al. • • February 14, 2013

Lightning and its association with the frequency of headache in migraineurs: An observational cohort study

  –Source: Cephalalgia, Jan 24, 2013. [Epub ahead of print] 

By Geoffrey V Martin et al.


Aim: The aim of this article is to determine if lightning is associated with the frequency of headache in migraineurs.

Methods: Participants fulfilling diagnostic criteria for International Headache Society-defined migraine were recruited from sites located in Ohio (n?=?23) and Missouri (n?=?67). They recorded headache activity in a daily diary for three to six months. A generalized estimating equations (GEE) logistic regression determined the odds ratio (OR) of headache on lightning days compared to non-lightning days. Other weather factors associated with thunderstorms were also added as covariates to the GEE model to see how they would attenuate the effect of lightning on headache.

Results: The mean age of the study population was 44 and 91% were female. The OR for headache was 1.31 (95% confidence limits (CL); 1.07, 1.66) during lighting days as compared to non-lightning days. The addition of thunderstorm-associated weather variables as covariates were only able to reduce the OR for headache on lightning days to 1.18 (95% CL; 1.02, 1.37). The probability of having a headache on lightning days was also further increased when the average current of lightning strikes for the day was more negative.

Conclusion: This study suggests that lightning represents a trigger for headache in migraineurs that cannot be completely explained by other meteorological factors. It is unknown if lightning directly triggers headaches through electromagnetic waves or indirectly through production of bioaerosols (e.g. ozone), induction of fungal spores or other mechanisms. These results should be interpreted cautiously until replicated in a second dataset.

Source: Cephalalgia, January 24, 2013 doi:10.1177/0333102412474502 . Geoffrey V Martin, Timothy Houle, Robert Nicholson, Albert Peterlin, and Vincent T Martin.  Department of Internal Medicine, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, OH, USA.  

Editor's Comment: Roughly 84% of ME/CFS patients who suffer from headaches experience migraines. Weather sensitivity as well as sensitivities to EMFs (electromagnetic fields) have also been reported by patients with ME/CFS. This study points to a link between those two symptoms.

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