Dysautonomia in the pathogenesis of migraine.
Migraine is a common complex neurological disorder involving multiple brain areas that regulate autonomic, affective, cognitive, and sensory functions. This review explores autonomic nervous system (ANS) dysfunction in migraine headache sufferers. Areas covered: Reference material for this review was obtained through PubMed searches. Migraine attacks can present with up to 4 phases (premonitory, aura, headache, postdrome) each with distinguishable signs and symptoms. Altered ANS tone can be found from the premonitory through the postdrome phases. Features of the migraine attack that are indicative of altered autonomic function, which include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, polyuria, eyelid edema, conjunctival injection, lacrimation, nasal congestion, and ptosis, are discussed and putative mechanisms explored. In addition, alteration of ANS function by endogenous and exogenous stressors, such as bright lights, hunger, poor sleep quality, menses, and special dietary components is discussed. The influence of currently employed pharmacological treatments on altered autonomic function during the migraine attack is explored. Expert commentary: Migraine-related alterations in ANS function have a complex pattern, but, in general, an imbalance occurs between sympathetic and parasympathetic tone. Through an improved understanding the role of autonomic changes in pathogenesis of migraine, it may be possible to develop even more effective treatments for migraine sufferers.