CINCINNATI - Local researchers have found that lightning could affect the onset of headaches and migraines.
The study from the University of Cincinnati, which is published Cephalalgia, is the first to link lightning to headaches, according to officials from the university.
Some believe this new information could help chronic sufferers more efficiently anticipate the arrival of headaches and migraines and allow them to begin preventive treatment immediately.
Geoffrey Martin, a fourth-year medical student at UC, and his father, UC Health physician and headache expert, Vincent Martin led the study.
The research showed 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 participants' homes.
"Many studies show conflicting findings on how weather, including elements like barometric pressure and humidity, affect the onset of headaches. However, this study very clearly shows a correlation between lightning, associated meteorological factors and headaches,” said Geoffrey Martin.
Participants who fulfilled the criteria for International Headache Society-defined migraines were recruited from sites located in Ohio and Missouri and recorded their headache activity in a daily journal for three to six months.
During this time, the location where lightning struck within 25 miles of a participant's home as well as the magnitude and polarity of lightning current was recorded.
"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,” said Vincent Martin in a UC Health press release .
"Our results found a 19 percent 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. There are a number of ways in which lightning might trigger headaches. 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 migraines,” Vincent Martin said.
"This study gives some insight into the tie between headaches or migraines, lightning and other meteorologic factors,” said Geoffrey Martin.
Other researchers involved in the study include Timothy Houle, Wake Forest Medical Center; Robert Nicholson, St. Louis University and Mercy Health Research and Ryan Headache Clinic; and Albert Peterlin, Environmental Rights and Releases Exchange.
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