How Headaches Are Related to Common Health Conditions

Four Diseases That May Influence Your Headache Health

Your Headache May be Related to Your Other Ailments. John Fedele/Getty Images

Headaches disorders are complex in their triggers and treatment, as well as their links or associations to other health problems. That said, let's take a closer look at four medical conditions that may influence your headache and migraine health.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem worldwide. A number of conditions may cause a person to have low vitamin D levels like:

  • Malnutrition
  • Limited exposure to sunlight
  • Kidney and liver disease
  • Gut malabsorption diseases, like Celiac disease

If you are vitamin D deficient and experience tension headaches or migraines, research suggests there may be a link between the two, although it's not clear exactly why this link exists. Some experts speculate that since vitamin D is needed for magnesium absorption, a deficiency in vitamin D could lead to a deficiency in magnesium, which could then trigger migraines in susceptible people.

Alternatively, experts theorize that low vitamin D levels could cause bone or muscle pain, which may mimic that of a headache or even promote sensitization of your nervous system, which could then change how you perceive pain.

While guidelines do not recommend the routine testing of vitamin D, checking a level may be reasonable if you experience headaches. If your vitamin D level is low, your doctor may recommend a supplement, as obtaining vitamin D from your diet can be difficult, albeit possible.

Foods that contain vitamin D include:

  • Fortified milk and cereals
  • Fatty fish, like salmon, herring, and sardines
  • Cod liver oil
  • Egg yolks

Hypothyroidism

You may be surprised to learn there is a headache disorder associated with having an under-active thyroid gland (called hypothyroidism).

Interestingly, this headache disorder follows the typical course as a person's hypothyroidism.

This means if your thyroid disease is treated (meaning your thyroid hormone level goes back to normal), your headaches should resolve.

Additionally, there is a connection between hypothyroidism and migraines. In fact, hypothyroidism is more common in people with migraines than in the general population. Furthermore, experts believe that hypothyroidism may serve as a risk factor for the transformation of episodic migraine to chronic migraine.

In the end, if you have thyroid disease and also experience headaches and migraines, it's sensible to discuss this connection with your doctor.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, cognitive problems, and various sleep disturbances, like waking up feeling unrefreshed.

Research suggests that fibromyalgia is common among those who experience chronic headaches, especially chronic migraine. In fact, according to a study in Headache, people with both chronic migraine and fibromyalgia experience more sensitivity to light and sound, anxiety, depression, and insomnia than those with chronic migraine who do not have fibromyalgia.

It's important to remember that a link or an association does not imply that one condition causes the other.

In terms of interpreting the link between fibromyalgia and migraines/headaches, it's reasonable to consider the diagnosis of fibromyalgia if a person has severe headaches, in addition to other areas of musculoskeletal pain.

Treatment of fibromyalgia often entails taking the antidepressant Cymbalta (duloxetine) or the anticonvulsant Lyrica (pregabalin), in addition to undergoing cognitive-behavioral therapy, physical therapy, and/or a regular exercise routine.

Heart Health

Diabetes and obesity are two conditions that put you at an increased risk of having a heart attack, and there appears to be a connection between obesity and migraines and insulin sensitivity and migraines.

In addition, obesity may trigger the transformation from episodic to chronic migraine.

With that, experts believe that leading a heart-healthy lifestyle through regular exercise, a nutritious diet, and maintaining normal body mass index may benefit your migraine health.

A Word From Verywell

Your headaches or migraines could be closely intertwined with your other medical conditions. That being said, just because there is a scientific link between the two does not mean that one causes the other, or that treating one will necessarily treat the other.

Still, talk with your doctor if you think there is a connection between your headaches and your other medical diagnoses. There may be a common trigger or lifestyle factor, that if addressed, could have a positive impact on both.

View Article Sources
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  • Cho SJ, Sohn JH, Bae JS, Chu MK. Fibromyalgia among patients with chronic migraine and chronic tension-type headache: A multicenter prospective cross-sectional study. Headache. 2017 Nov;57(10):1583-92.
  • Prakash S, Makwana P, Rathore C. Vitamin D deficiency mimicking chronic tension-type headache in children. BMJ Case Rep. 2016 Feb 2;2016.
  • Sachdev A & Marmura MJ. Metabolic Syndrome and Migraine. Front Neurol. 2012; 3:161.