Migraines Result In Permanent Brain Changes


Migraine headaches are not as benign as once was thought.  A research study involving people with migraines which appeared in the online issue of the Neurology journal provides strong evidence to suggest that people who have a history of migraine headaches also are at a higher risk of developing lesions on their brains as well as a host of other problems, and that migraines result in permanent brain changes.

According to the study’s author, Dr. Messoud Ashina of the Univeristy of Copenhagen in Denmark, Migraine headaches might cause permanent alterations in a person’s brain structure:

Traditionally, migraine has been considered a benign disorder without long-term consequences for the brain. Our review and meta-analysis study suggests that the disorder may permanently alter brain structure in multiple ways.”

What are migraine headaches?

Migraine headaches differ from other headaches in that they generally are mroe severe, and often cause a throbbing or pounding pain inside their sufferers’ heads. People also often experience feelings of nausea accompanying migraines. Also, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for some reason women experience migraines far more often than men — in fact, they’re two times more likely to have migraines than men.

Researchers involved with the study of migraines and their long-term effects on the brain used 18 studies, six that were population-based and 13 clinical ones, in their comparative study of migraines.

What percentage of the population of the United States experiences migraines?

According to Dr. Ashina:

Migraine affects about 10 to 15 percent of the general population and can cause a substantial personal, occupational, and social burden.”

Also, rather than being benign, though painful, migraine headache sufferers are more at risk of developing brain lesions than non-sufferers. Besides the lesions, the researchers also found a higher incidence of brain white matter abnormalities and an alteration of brain volume.

Conditions such as obsessive-compulsive behavior and multiple sclerosis are frequently associated with these brain white matter abnormalities and altered brain volume.

More rarely, in severe cases of migraines, people have experienced seeing light flashes and aura-blind spots, Preceding the migraines, they frequently will also experience a tingling feeling in their faces and hands.

According to researchers, people who experience “migraines with auras” are 68 percent more likely to then develop lesions on their brains and other associated problems. The regular sorts of migraines, by comparison, increased the likelihood by 34 percent.

Sufferers of migraines with auras also are 44 percent more likely to experience abnormalities that echo ones associated with the brains of people who experience a lack of oxygen. The abnormalities are akin to cell death.

What’s been long known by doctors and other medical experts is that people who have migraines are more likely to experience a stroke. According to the Mayo Clinic, the group at the most elevated risk for having a stroke are women who also use birth control or smoke, and have migraines with auras.

Dr. Ashina added:

We hope that through more study, we can clarify the association of brain structure changes to attack frequency and length of the disease. We also want to find out how these lesions may influence brain function.”

According to the researchers, they recommend and conclude:

Patients with white matter abnormalities can be reassured… Patients with infarct-like lesions should be evaluated for stroke risk factors.”

Migraines, once thought to be painful but otherwise benign, actually result in permanent brain changes and possibly brain damage, according to the most recent research. If you are a migraine sufferer, it’s recommended that you consult with your doctor about your possible increased risk of having a stroke.

Written by: Douglas Cobb

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