Until recently, Migraine was considered to be an episodic disease with no long-term consequences or effects. In the last few years, however, we've seen reports of studies suggesting that Migraine may well be associated with changes in the brain and may be a progressive disease. (See Is Migraine a Progressive Brain Disease? and Yes, Migraines Can Cause Brain Damage.
A new study funded**, in part, by the Migraine Research Foundation and published in JAMA confirms some earlier findings. Before we panic, however, let's take a good look at the study, it's implications, and where we go from here.
"To determine whether individuals not reporting headache compared with individuals reporting migraine symptoms, particularly aura, in midlife are at increased risk of late-life infarct-like lesions* found on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) without consideration of clinical symptoms."1
A group of 4,689 study participants (2,693 women and 1,996 men) were followed from 1967 through 2006.
The participants were interviewed regarding Migraine symptoms in mid-life.
Subject ages ranged from 33 years to 65 years.
Between 2002 and 2006, MRIs of the brain were performed on participants.
Participants reporting headaches were classified as having Migraine without aura, Migraine with aura, or non-Migraine headaches after being surveyed about Migraine symptoms including nausea, unilateral location, photophobia,
visual disturbance, and numbness.
Full cardiovascular risk assessments were completed at both the beginning (1967) and end of the study period.
Study main outcome measure:
"Presence of infarct-like lesions (total) and specifically located in the cortical, subcortical, and cerebellar regions."1
- Infarct-like lesions were present in 39.3% of men and 24.6% of women.
- Prevalence of cerebellar lesions in women with migraine with aura was 23.0 percent vs. 14.5 percent for women not reporting headaches.
- There was no statistically significant difference in prevalence of these lesions in men.
- Migraine without aura and nonmigraine headache were not associated with an increased risk.