Lipid Panel May Identify Episodic Migraine in Migraineurs

blood test
blood test
A simple lipid panel may distinguish those with episodic migraine.

Episodic migraine is not what researchers would consider a chronic condition, but the disorder’s periodic nature might not be so random after all.

New research published in Neurology may have identified a potential biomarker of episodic migraine that could have implications for future diagnosis and treatment.

B. Lee Peterlin, DO, of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and colleagues collected serum samples from 52 women with episodic migraine and 36 controls in order to detect and quantify sphingolipids.

Among participants with episodic migraine, total ceramide (EM 6,502.9 ng/mL vs controls 10,518.5 ng/mL; p < 0.0001) and dihydroceramide (EM 39.3 ng/mL vs controls 63.1 ng/mL; p < 0.0001) levels were decreased compared to controls. Each increase of standard deviation in total ceramide and total dihydroceramide was associated with over 92% lower risk of migraine. While crude sphingomyelin levels were not found to be different between those with episodic migraine and controls, every standard deviation increase in the sphingomyelin species C18:0 and C18:1 was linked to an increased odds of migraine. Using blood samples from a subset of 14 random participants, the researchers were able to correctly identify 100% of participants who had migraine and controls based on blood lipid levels.

“This study is a very important contribution to our understanding of the underpinnings of migraine and may have wide-ranging effects in diagnosing and treating migraine if the results are replicated in further studies,” said Karl Ekbom, MD, PhD, of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, who wrote an accompanying editorial.

The researchers noted that several limitations, such as including only women, not studying chronic migraine, and the high rate of participants with migraine with aura, could have affected study results. In the future, the authors wrote, studies should make a comparison with other types of headache, such as cluster headache.


  1. Peterlin BL et al. Neurology. 2015; doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000002004.