Results published last year in the online edition of the journal Cephalgia are the first linking lightning to headache. These findings might help migraineurs more effectively anticipate the onset of a headache or migraine.

Geoffrey Martin, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Cincinnati, and his father, Vincent Martin, MD, a UC Health physician and headache expert, led the study which showed that there was a 31% increased risk of headache and 28% increased risk of migraine for chronic headache sufferers on days lightning struck within 25 miles of study participants’ homes.

Also, the study found that new-onset headache and migraine increased by 24% and 23% in participants.

“We used mathematical models to determine if the lightning itself was the cause of the increased frequency of headaches or whether it could be attributed to other weather factors encountered with thunderstorms,” says Vincent Martin. “Our results found a 19% increased risk for headaches on lightning days, even after accounting for these weather factors. This suggests that lightning has its own unique effect on headache.”

Martin says that negatively charged lightning currents were also particularly associated with a higher chance of headache.

“There are a number of ways in which lightning might trigger headaches,” Martin says. “Electromagnetic waves emitted from lightning could trigger headaches. In addition, lightning produces increases in air pollutants like ozone and can cause release of fungal spores that might lead to migraine.”

The researchers concluded that the effect of weather on headache is complex, and future studies will be needed to more specifically define the role of lightning and thunderstorms on headache.     HealthNews   1/24/13

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