Skin Deep

Migraines and rosacea may be connected, study says

A recent paper found convincing evidence that both men and women with rosacea are at a greater risk for developing new-onset migraines, particularly women.
A recent paper found convincing evidence that both men and women with rosacea are at a greater risk for developing new-onset migraines, particularly women.

At first glance, migraines probably don’t seem connected to dermatology. As it turns out, though, the skin is often a window into your body’s overall health and wellness.

In fact, dermatologists have been likened to Sherlock Holmes because of the ways in which they can use the skin to look for clues about underlying health issue — there is even a Sherlock Holmes-based dermatology society called the Sir James Saunders Society.

This ability of detection allows dermatologists to find links between some of the most common skin concerns and many seemingly unrelated health issues. One recent example is found in the connection between rosacea and migraines.

What Is a Migraine?

The exact causes of migraines are unknown, although we do know that genetics and certain environmental factors seem to be involved in the changes to the nervous system that have been linked to migraine episodes.

Some of the most common symptoms of a migraine include throbbing pain, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and changes in vision. For people who get migraines, being able to recognize the triggers that tend to cause these symptoms is one of the best ways to help prevent a migraine from happening in the first place, or to help reduce its severity. Migraine triggers include:

▪ Hormonal fluctuations.

▪ Certain foods and drinks, including alcohol and caffeine.

▪ Emotional stress.

▪ Changes in the weather.

▪ Some medications.

What Is Rosacea?

Rosacea is a chronic condition that affects millions of Americans each year. Although its most visible symptoms include facial redness, flushing and sometimes small pustules or bumps, rosacea can also signal a number of underlying health concerns. The condition has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and, most recently, migraines.

Rosacea and New-Onset Migraines

A recent paper published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found convincing evidence that both men and women with rosacea are at a greater risk for developing new-onset migraines, although it appears that that risk is particularly great among women with rosacea.

Additionally, study participants over age 50, as well as those with ocular rosacea, had significantly higher risks of developing migraines than the general population. Because of this newly discovered link between rosacea and new-onset migraines, researchers believe that there is even more evidence that rosacea is much more than a superficial skin condition and, at least partially, also involves the body’s central nervous system.

Latest Treatment for Migraines

Although there is no cure for migraines, treatment options continue to become more advanced and effective. For example, Botox, a common injectable wrinkle treatment, is now FDA-approved to treat and possibly even prevent migraines (Medscape). Because of this, the cost of Botox treatments may be covered by insurance if these injections are needed to treat migraines.

Keep in mind that you should still seek professional advice from a neurologist for migraine treatment recommendations, but know that treating your underlying dermatological issues like frown lines, rosacea and even psoriasis may, in turn, help to relieve your migraine symptoms.

Latest Treatment for Rosacea

The FDA has approved Rhofade (oxymetazoline) for the treatment of the redness associated with rosacea. This new medication constricts the tiny blood vessels on the face that cause redness and facial flushing. I did the research trials that led to approval of this medication and was thrilled with the results. I had to wait four years to prescribe it but it is finally here.

Your insurance should cover it so ask your dermatologist for a prescription. Discount cards are available, which will decrease the price from $450 to $35-$75.

The Bottom Line

We do not know if treating migraines improves rosacea or if treating rosacea improves migraine headaches. We do know that the two seem to be related. Stay tuned for more information or follow my rosacea information stream under my name at google+.

Dr. Leslie Baumann is a board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Baumann Cosmetic & Research Institute in Miami.