01/24/2013 02:36 pm ET

Lightning Could Spur Headaches, Migraines: Study

It may be silent, but lightning could still bring on major headaches and migraines, according to a small new study.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Cincinnati, showed an association between lightning striking and an increased risk of headache and migraines for people living within 25 miles of the strike.

"There are a number of ways in which lightning might trigger headaches," study researcher Dr. Vincent Martin, a headache expert and professor in the general internal medicine division at the University of Cincinnati, said in a statement. "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 migraine."

The study, which was published in the journal Cephalalgia and funded by GlaxoSmithKline, included 23 people from Ohio and 67 people from Missouri with an average age of 44, most of whom were female, who all experienced migraines. Researchers asked the participants to record their headaches every day for three to six months.

Researchers found that the study participants had a 31 percent higher headache risk on the days when lightning struck within 25 minutes of their homes. Those who already experienced chronic headaches had a 28 percent higher risk of migraine.

"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," Martin said in the statement. "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."

The findings come on the heels of another study, just published in the journal Neurology, showing that people may not be as in tune with their migraine triggers as they think they are, Everyday Health reported:

The study suggests that while many people with migraines report certain triggers, they may not back-track and expose themselves to the trigger again to confirm that it is setting off their migraines. In interviewing the participants, researchers noted the problem of "recall bias" for identifying triggers -- that is, recalling something that occurred beforehand and associating it with the migraine.



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