Yes, Migraines Can Cause Brain Damage

The importance of preventing Migraines has never been more clear.

by Teri Robert, MyMigraineConnection Lead Expert

Study results are again indicating that Migraineurs who experience frequent Migraine attacks and / or have a long history of Migraines are at increased risk of "silent brain damage," brain damage that (so far) does not seem to cause any symptoms. This again shows that reducing the frequency of Migraine attacks (aka Migraine headaches) is critical.

Study Background and Introduction
Previous studies have introduced the idea of Migraine as a progressive brain disease and shown the following points, which are important background to the study discussed in this article:

  • Up to one-third of Migraineurs experience Migraine with aura (MWA).
  • Adult women are affected by Migraine three times more than men.
  • An estimated 20% of the population will develop Migraine disease in their lifetime.
  • Clinical studies have reported Migraine as a risk factor for ischemic stroke in women.
  • In a large-scale population-based study, "silent" brain damage is more frequent in people with Migraine than in people without Migraine.
  • Migraineurs who experience MWA have an increased risk of white matter lesions, and the risk of such lesions was increased even more with increased Migraine attack frequency. This suggests that Migraine may be a progressive brain disease.

In previous studies, the specific sites of brain damage weren't specified, and only visible lesions were studied.

Study Objective
The objective of this study was to identify likely sites of brain damage caused by Migraine and to assess whether migraine attack frequency and disease duration (lenght of history of Migraine) are indicators for brain abnormalities in Migraineurs.

Study Methods

  • The researchers studied 28 patients with Migraine using high-resolution T1- and diffusion-weighted MRI and other advanced technology to identify areas of any damage to the brain.
  • The researchers also used the technology to examine the brains of 28 patients without Migraine, a control group.
  • Potential participants for both groups were examined to exclude patients with any conditions that could affect the brain. No participants had a history of any major medical conditions other than Migraine.
  • Results from the two groups were analyzed and compared.
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