Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cigarette Smoking Can Trigger Painful Migraine

According to a study from Spain, cigarette smoking can act as a precipitating factor for headaches, specifically migraines. Furthermore, this investigation of 361 medical students at the University of Salamanca found that smokers have more frequent migraine attacks and that smoking more than 5 cigarettes a day can trigger this headache.

In the study, 16% of all students fulfilled migraine criteria and 20% of all students were smokers. However, the percentage of migraineurs who smoked was greater (29%) and migraine frequency in those who were both migraine sufferers and smokers was higher than in those who were nonsmoking migraine sufferers. Therefore smoking clearly seems to be a precipitating factor for this type of headache and there also was a direct relationship between the number of cigarettes consumed and the frequency of migraine attacks, with migraines typically provoked by smoking more than 5 daily cigarettes. Although a greater percentage of students with migraines smoked, they actually smoked less than those who did not suffer migraines; apparently, the migraineurs knew they were more likely to have an attack if they exceeded the 5 cigarette limit, so the prospect of pain was a self-limiting factor.

This was an interview study among young adult students, so generalization to a wider population (and outside of Spain) may or may not be valid. Still, a reduction in cigarette smoking, or quitting, would be worthy of discussion as a preventative measure in tobacco-smoking migraineurs.

Reference: López-Mesonero L, Márquez S, Parra P, et al. Smoking as a precipitating factor for migraine: a survey in medical students. J Headache Pain. 2009;10(2):101-103.