Dr. Innocenzo Rainero the study's lead author stated that though not yet clearly understood if overusing migraine medications can sometimes cause periodic migraines to become chronic, the new findings does suggest that altered hormone regulation may be one reason.
Migraines are usually episodic attacks of head pain, often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Chronic migraine is diagnosed when people suffer attacks at least 15 days a month for more than three months. It is not yet clear why migraines sometimes become chronic; medication overuse has been considered a risk factor.
The lab research had shown that the drugs used to treat migraine attacks including certain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), ergot alkaloids and triptans may change the body's secretion of hormones such as growth hormone and the stress hormone cortisol.
Keeping this in mind Rainero and his colleagues at the University of Turin in Italy tested several hormonal responses in 18 adults with chronic migraine and 18 healthy comparison subjects. They found that almost all the migraine sufferers were overusing some medication, most often NSAIDs. But none was taking any of the drugs used to prevent migraine attacks they found.
The researchers to test and study participants' hormonal function injected them with specific "releasing" hormones that trigger the secretion of growth hormone, cortisol, thyroid-stimulating hormone and adrenocorticotropic hormone. They found that compared with healthy adults, chronic migraine sufferers showed either reduced or heightened secretion of three of these hormones.
The researchers explained that this might to be one of the first study to test these hormonal responses in people with chronic migraine and medication overuse, and they aid that it's not yet clear whether the medication abuse is responsible for the altered hormonal function.
The researchers stated that Migraine itself involves a "chronic stress condition," and could have impaired hormonal activity in the study patients. However Rainero said that the findings do strengthen the belief that abuse of anti-migraine drugs is a "serious medical condition. They also support the use of preventive medications, he added, as these drugs may head off both migraine attacks and overuse of migraine-relieving medications.