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Colic may be linked with migraines, research says


Published:   |   Updated: April 17, 2013 at 11:20 AM

The distressing nonstop crying in babies with colic is often blamed on tummy trouble, but a new study says the problem could be linked with migraine headaches in at least some infants.

Children and teens treated for migraine headaches at three hospitals in Italy and France were much more likely than other kids to have had colic in infancy. The link has been suggested in other research, and if it can be proven, it could offer new hope for treating colic, the researchers said.

“Infantile colic causes pain in babies and high levels of stress in parents. Preventive therapies for migraine could therefore be an option in the future,” said study co-author Luigi Titomanlio, chief of a pediatric migraine clinic at Robert Debre Hospital in Paris.

More research is needed to prove any link between colic and migraines, and Titomanlio said studies would need to be done before anyone would recommend using migraine treatments for babies’ colic.

The study appeared in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association.

Among about 200 children and teens who got emergency treatment for migraines in the study, 73 percent had colic as infants, versus 27 percent of children in a control group. That group, 471 kids, got emergency treatment for minor trauma and had no history of recurrent headaches. An editorial in JAMA calls it important research and says if colic really is an early form of migraines that might explain why digestive treatments typically don’t help colic.

Definitive causes are uncertain for both colic and migraines.

Roughly 20 percent of U.S. infants have colic — intense crying spells lasting more than three hours a day, at least three days a week, for more than three weeks in an otherwise healthy baby. The symptoms are sometimes blamed on digestive problems including gas but experts say the true cause is unknown.

Migraine headaches are rare in very young children but by middle-school and teen years as many as 10 percent or more experience them.

The throbbing headaches are thought to be inherited and may be caused by irritation in nerve cells in the brain interacting with brain blood vessels. Researchers said it could be that colic is caused by similar changes in nerves and blood vessels in the gut.

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