Can chronic migraines cause Alzheimer's?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Does having chronic migraines injure the brain and cause Alzheimer's? My dad always had migraines and now has Alzheimer's. I have had migraines since my 30's and have scarring on my brain. I do see a neurologist but he doesn't think it causes the disease. My kids also get them.

Expert Answer

Lisa P. Gwyther, a social worker specializing in Alzheimer's services, is the author of The Alzheimer's Action Plan. An associate professor in the Duke University Medical Center Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, she's also a past president of the Gerontological Society of America.

Your neurologist is right - there are no studies and no evidence suggesting migraines cause Alzheimer's disease.  Serious head injury resulting in unconsciousness in young adulthood is one of several risk factors for Alzheimer's.  Migraine injury to the brain is probably different, but I'm not a physician. 

It is likely there will never be a single cause for a common, complex and chronic disease like Alzheimer's.  There are multiple risk and protective factors which may increase or decrease your risk for Alzheimer's relative to other people.  Because Alzheimer's is such a common condition in later life, it is natural for people to look back and associate their Alzheimer's with conditions they had earlier like migraines.   For now, continue to seek help for your family migraine problem.  Getting migraines under control in the present is probably enough for you to deal with right now.