What Do Colic and Migraines Share?

Childhood migraines linked to colic in infancy but reasons unclear

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) It's normal for a baby to cry. But when that crying lasts for weeks on end, the baby may have a condition known as colic. While the cause of colic remains unknown, it may be related to migraines.

A recent study found that children with migraines were more likely to have had colic as babies.

It's not clear why colic was more common in the history of children with migraines. However, it could be that an underlying cause is related to both conditions.

"Discuss colic with your pediatrician."

The study, led by Silvia Romanello, MD, of the Department of Pediatric Emergency Care at APHP-Hospital Robert Debré in Paris, France, looked at whether childhood migraines and infant colic were connected.

The researchers compared 208 children who had gone to the hospital for migraines with 471 children in the same age range (age 6 to 18) who had visited the hospital for different reasons.

Each of the children's families filled out a questionnaire about the child's history of colic as a baby. The researchers compared the rates of colic among the children.

Colic is a condition that involves continuous crying from a baby for no identifiable reason that lasts more than three hours a day for more than three days a week for more than three weeks.

The researchers found that children who had migraines were much more likely to have had colic when they were babies. While 73 percent of the children with migraines had had colic as babies, only 27 percent of the children without migraines had had colic.

This difference in rates meant that the children with migraines were more than six times more likely to have had colic than the children without migraines.

Although there was a slight difference in the rates of colic between the children who had migraines with and without aura, it was not a big difference.

An "aura" with a migraine is a sort of "warning" for a migraine that is usually visual, such as seeing bright lights, flashes or another visual that comes just before the migraine.

About 70 percent of the children who had an aura with their migraine had colic as babies, compared to 74 percent of the children who had migraines without aura.

The researchers did a second investigation with 120 children who had been diagnosed with tension-type headaches to see if the colic link was tied only to migraines or to headaches in general.

The results showed that children with tension-type headaches were very slightly more likely to have had colic as babies, but the likelihood was not nearly as high as it was for those with migraines.

Compared to the 26 percent of children without migraines who had colic, 35 percent of children with tension-type headaches had colic as children.

The researchers are not sure why this connection between colic and migraines in childhood exists. Colic alone is a mysterious condition that does not have a clearly established cause or treatment in medicine.

The researchers said it is possible that a common underlying cause is related to both the colic and the later migraines.

One limitation of the study is that the researchers relied on the parents' reports and medical records for the colic diagnosis, and headache and migraine frequency in children can change with age.

The study was published April 16 in the journal JAMA. No external funding was used for this study, and the authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 16, 2013
Last Updated:
August 14, 2013