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Rheumatoid Arthritis and Migraines: How Are They Linked?

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Migraines: How Are They Linked?

Rheumatoid arthritis and migraines are both chronic conditions that millions of individuals grapple with daily. Their symptoms and impacts on the quality of life are well-known. However, less recognized is the surprising link between these two conditions. 

A neurological disorder may not seem to have a lot in common with a joint issue, at first glance. Surprisingly, research shows there’s a strong link between rheumatoid arthritis and migraines. 

Individuals with rheumatoid arthritis are significantly more likely to experience migraines. This connection isn’t merely coincidental. There are shared inflammatory pathways that appear to underpin both disorders. 

Through the lens of our work at Neurology Specialists of Albuquerque, let's delve into this link between rheumatoid arthritis and migraines to shed light on its implications for treatment and patient care.

Understanding rheumatoid arthritis and migraines

Before delving into the connection, here are some facts about each condition:

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the body’s own tissues, especially the synovium (the soft tissue in joints that produces a fluid that nourishes the cartilage and lubricates the joints). Inflammation, swelling, and pain in and around the joints is characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis.


A migraine is a neurological condition accompanied by symptoms like nausea, vomiting, difficulty speaking, numbness or tingling, and sensitivity to light and sound. When migraines strike they can cause pain for hours to days, interfering with your ability to function. 

Rheumatoid arthritis can trigger migraines

Rheumatoid arthritis' effects aren't confined solely to the joints. The systemic inflammation linked with RA extends to the entire body, including the blood vessels. When the body's immune system is in overdrive due to rheumatoid arthritis, it releases inflammatory cytokines — proteins that promote inflammation. These cytokines can trigger inflammation in the blood vessels, and this in turn can trigger migraines.

Migraines are a neurological response to inflammation. When blood vessels in the brain become inflamed, they irritate the surrounding nerves, triggering a migraine attack. As such, it is not surprising that individuals with rheumatoid arthritis are more susceptible to migraines. 

What’s more, this connection seems to be reciprocal, as the debilitating pain from migraines can exacerbate RA symptoms, creating a cycle of pain and discomfort. At Neurology Specialists of Albuquerque, we are committed to breaking this cycle.

Navigating rheumatoid arthritis and migraines

Addressing both conditions requires a comprehensive approach. At Neurology Specialists of Albuquerque, our team of professionals has extensive experience diagnosing and managing a full range of neurological issues, including migraine. 

A combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and other therapies can be used to manage migraines and RA. It’s also crucial for patients to maintain open communication with their health care providers to adjust the treatment plan as needed.

If you have been diagnosed with RA and are experiencing migraines, don’t hesitate to discuss it with our team. As part of your multidisciplinary care team, the professionals here at Neurology Specialists of Albuquerque can provide you with comprehensive migraine management.

For expert migraine management, call 505-302-2765 to schedule a visit with a Neurology Specialists of Albuquerque provider today.

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