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Migraine Without Aura and Migraine With Aura Are Distinct Disorders. A Population-Based Twin Survey


Address all correspondence to Dr. Michael Bjørn Russell, Department of Neurology, University of Copenhagen, Gentofte Hospital, 2900 Hellerup, Denmark.


Objective.—To investigate the co-occurrence of migraine without aura (MWOA) and migraine with aura (MWA) in a population-based twin survey.

Background.—Migraine without aura and MWA are multifactorial disorders. If MWOA and MWA share common genes, co-occurrence should be observed more frequently than expected, ie, the product of the prevalence in the general population.

Material and Methods.—The study population included all living Danish monozygotic (MZ) and same-gender dizygotic (DZ) twin pairs born between 1953 and 1960: 5360 twins (2026 MZ, 3334 DZ). The sample included 2840 men and 2520 women. All received a posted questionnaire, and those with possible migraine were interviewed via telephone by trained physicians (V.U. or M.G.). Twins who did not respond to the questionnaire and who had a co-twin with possible migraine were contacted by telephone. The questionnaire response rate was 87% (4660 of 5360), and the telephone interview was participated in by 90% (2035 of 2272). The physician interviewers were unaware of questionnaire answers, zygosity, and the clinical diagnosis of the co-twin. The criteria of the International Headache Society were used to establish a diagnosis of migraine.

Results.—Lifetime prevalence in the twin sample: 7% of men and 19% of women had MWOA, while 7% of men and 8% of women had MWA. Lifetime prevalence of MWA in twin pairs with MWOA: MZ men, 2% (1 of 47); MZ women, 6% (5 of 90); DZ men, 9% (7 of 75); and DZ women, 10% (19 of 182). Lifetime prevalence of MWOA in twin pairs with MWA: MZ men, 3% (1 of 33); MZ women, 5% (3 of 58); DZ men, 9% (4 of 44); and DZ women, 13% (10 of 76). The observed and the expected numbers of twins with co-occurrence of MWOA and MWA based on the prevalence in the general population were not significantly different in either men or women (men, P=.1 and women, P=.5).

Conclusion.—The results strongly suggest that MWOA and MWA are distinct disorders, and identification of common genes for MWOA and MWA, thus, should not be expected to result from future genetic research.