Objective.— To clarify whether headache, and particularly migraine, belongs to the spectrum of neurologic manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the archetypal autoimmune disease.
Methods.— Consecutive SLE patients were matched 1:1 for age, gender, and level of education with healthy control subjects. A representative subgroup of SLE patients were also matched with patients suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS), a nervous system-specific autoimmune disease. All study participants were assessed for headache present in the previous year. Anxiety, depression, and quality of life were also estimated at baseline. During the following year, all participants were assessed every 3 months using specific headache diaries.
Results.— Seventy-two SLE/control pairs and 48 MS patients completed 12 months of follow-up. Prevalence of migraine, with or without aura, was similar between SLE patients (21%), MS patients (23%), and controls (22%), as was the prevalence of frequent tension-type headache. Duration and severity of migraine attacks were milder in SLE patients than controls. Only chronic tension-type headache was significantly more prevalent in SLE patients (12.5%) compared to controls (1.4%). MS patients also presented increased frequency of chronic tension-type headache (8.3%). No associations of any headache type with particular clinical manifestations, autoantibody, or disease activity, either in SLE or MS patient groups, were found. Irrespective of the presence of headache, anxiety symptoms and impaired quality of life were more frequent among SLE than MS patients or controls.
Conclusion.— Migraine should be no longer considered a neurologic manifestation of systemic or organ-specific autoimmunity. Increased migraine prevalence in these patients found in previous studies could be due to methodological weaknesses.