Lightning Linked to Headaches, Migraines

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Researchers have tied lightning to headaches and the findings could help chronic sufferers better anticipate the onset of pain and take proactive, preventative measures faster.

University of Cincinnati medical student Geoffrey Martin and professor of internal medicine Vincent Martin asked 100 headache sufferers living in Ohio and Missouri to record their headache activity in a daily journal over the course of three to six months. The mean age of the study population was 44 and 91 percent were female. The researchers found a 31 percent increased risk of headache and 28 percent increased risk of migraine for chronic headache sufferers on days lighting struck within 25 miles of study participant’s home.

“There are a number of ways in which lightning might trigger headaches,” said Vincent Martin in a press release. “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.”

Negatively charged lightning currents were also associated with a higher chance of headache.

“This study gives some insight into the tie between headaches or migraines, lightning and other meteorologic factors,” Geoffrey Martin said in the press release. “However, the exact mechanisms through which lightning and/or its associated meteorologic factors trigger headache are unknown, although we do have speculations. Ultimately, the effect of weather on headache is complex, and future studies will be needed to define more precisely the role of lightning and thunderstorms on headache.”

They published the results of their study in the journal Cephalalgia.

Credit: Richard Wear/Design Pics/Corbis

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