Mind & Body

Migraine Increases Risk of Severe Skin Sensitivity

TIMEDecember 1, 2021

People with migraines experience sensitivity to sound, smell, and light. During some recent studies, researchers have found that migraine can also lead to severe skin sensitivity.

This side effect of migraine is called allodynia—pain that is triggered by something that isn’t usually painful, for instance, rubbing one’s head, wearing necklaces, putting on clothes, combing hair, etc.

According to a survey, 11,737 participants reported migraine headaches out of 16,573 participants with headaches. The study found that 68 percent of those who reported almost daily headaches (chronic migraine) and 63 percent of those with episodic migraines reported allodynia.

What is Migraine?

Migraine is a severe headache that often appears on one side of the head after sensory disturbances. Migraine can last up to 3 or 4 days.

Causes of Migraine

A nerve called the trigeminal nerve is responsible for sensation in the head and face. When the nerve cells become overactive, they trigger the trigeminal nerve. Once this nerve is activated, it releases chemicals that lead to swelling of blood vessels in the lining of the brain. This causes inflammation and pain.

The triggers for migraine are: fatigue, bright lights, weather changes, stress, certain foods, changes in sleep, or skipping meals.

Symptoms of Migraine

Dull ache transforming into throbbing pain; sensitivity to light, noise, and smell; nausea and vomiting; pale skin; blurred vision; or fatigue.

The Link Between Rosacea and Migraine

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, patients with rosacea were found to have a high risk of migraine.

Rosacea is a skin condition characterized by flushing of the skin and facial pustules. The exact cause of rosacea is unknown but some food ingredients can worsen the symptoms. The following are four types of rosacea:

  1. Phymatous rosacea causes the skin to thicken and form a bumpy texture.
  2. Ocular rosacea causes redness and irritation in the eyes and swollen eyelids.
  3. Erythematotelangiectatic rosacea features redness and flushing, with visible blood vessels.
  4. Papulopustular rosacea involves redness, swelling, and breakouts that resemble acne.

The basis for the onset of rosacea and migraine is unknown but vascular abnormality is central to both. According to researchers, several triggers for migraine share an overlap with rosacea triggers including stress and alcohol.

Antibiotics (metronidazole), tretinoin, benzoyl peroxide, and azelaic acid can be used topically to treat rosacea. Oral antibiotics can give faster results.

How Migraine Hurts Skin

Allodynia, the severe skin sensitivity mentioned earlier, is a side effect of migraine and is present in almost 70 percent of people living with migraine. 

Allodynia-related pain can occur with the slightest touch or from stimuli that wouldn’t normally lead to pain. Acts, like rubbing one’s head, combing one’s hair, and wearing necklaces or earrings, can sensitize skin and lead to pain. Activities as simple as washing your face, laying your head on the pillow, or a gentle tap on your hand can cause pain. Allodynia occurs in other instances also besides migraines.

When allodynia is triggered, nerves send pain signals to the brain in response to the stimuli. This may or may not subside as the migraine subsides. It is an independent condition but often a side effect of migraine.

Types of Allodynia

  1. Static allodynia results from a light touch on the skin.
  2. Dynamic allodynia occurs with movement across the skin.
  3. Thermal allodynia occurs in response to mild changes in temperature.

How Are Allodynia & Migraines Related?

Allodynia indicates the severity of migraines. More severe migraine relates to higher chances of acquiring allodynia.

What Are Risk Factors for Developing Allodynia?

High intensity and frequency of migraines; years of living with migraine; women with migraine (due to hormonal changes when on a period; obesity; or smoking

How to Treat Migraine

1. Relieving the pain—You doctor may prescribe analgesic or painkillers like acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, and aspirin.

2. Preventing migraine—Blood pressure medicines (like beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers), and some antidepressants.

3. Biofeedback Session—When you pedal a cycle, you are in control (voluntary) of this action. Some bodily functions are out of your control (involuntary), like your heartbeat, blood pressure, temperature, etc.

Biofeedback uses the power of your brain to become more aware of what’s going inside your body and how you can control it.

How to Prevent Migraine

1. Identify and avoid migraine triggers.

2. Manage stress with relaxation and yoga.

3. Eat healthily and exercise in moderation.

Nisha Baghadia is a health and wellness writer. She has written many articles on yoga, fitness, wellness, remedies, and beauty.