Researchers in Denmark have reported a potential link between rosacea and migraine headaches, finding an association between the two conditions particularly in women over the age of 50.1 A relationship between the two conditions has been hypothesized for the past 30 years, but only a handful of studies have investigated the potential connection.
In the most recent in their series of comorbidity studies, Dr. Alexander Egeberg and his research team at the University of Copenhagen tracked more than 4.3 million individuals in the Danish National Patient Registry, including 49,475 who were diagnosed with rosacea. The researchers calculated a baseline prevalence for migraine based on the study population during the 13 years prior to the five-year study period, then counted the number of new migraine diagnoses for those who had rosacea during the study period compared with those who did not.
The study found that rosacea patients were 31 percent more likely to experience migraines for the first time during the study period than those without the condition. Ocular rosacea patients had a 69 percent increased risk of new-onset migraine, while patients with phymatous (subtype 3) rosacea showed no increased risk. When the results were stratified by age and gender, female rosacea patients over the age of 50 had the highest increased risk of migraine.
The nature of the connection between rosacea and migraine is unknown, and an observational study such as this one cannot determine whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship. However, Dr. Egeberg and team noted that vascular abnormalities are believed to be involved in the development of both disorders and that migraines and rosacea share several triggers, including stress and alcohol consumption, and suggested that future studies might investigate the overlap of these triggers in patients with both disorders.
The researchers noted several limitations to their study. Migraine prevalence was determined by the number of patients prescribed antimigraine drugs and it’s possible people are prescribed antimigraine medicine for other reasons. Also, some patients might not seek treatment for migraine or might use over-the-counter medicine. Moreover, the Danish population is predominantly caucasian and therefore the results may not be extrapolated to patients of other ethnicities.
The Danish study builds on the conclusions drawn from a population-based study that took place in the United Kingdom and was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2013.2 The study included more than 100,000 migraine patients and found a small association of 22 percent for women with rosacea. No association was found for rosacea and migraine in male patients. The association found between rosacea and migraine for female patients increased directly with age. Women over the age of 60 had a 66 percent increased risk of rosacea.
1. Egeberg et al. Prevalence and risk of migraine in patients with rosacea: a population-based cohort study. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2016; pii: S0190-9622(16)30742-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2016.08.055. [Epub ahead of print]
2. Spoendlin J, Voegel JJ, Jick SS, Meier CR. Migraine, Triptans, and the risk of developing rosacea: a population-based study within the United Kingdom. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2013;69: 399 - 406.