Migraine Visual Aura - How it may happen...
A Scary Thing About Migraines
The agony of a migraine headache is, sadly, a familiar feeling for many of us: An estimated 22 million women suffer from headaches and migraines. And while the pounding pain goes away eventually, new research shows that migraines leave a lasting—and potentially damaging—impression on the brain.
In a study of 300 patients, published in theJournal of the American Medical Association, researchers concluded that female migraine sufferers exhibited more brain lesions—small areas of damaged tissue—than their peers. And over a nine-year follow-up period, those brain lesions progressed more rapidly than lesions on the brains of women without migraine headaches.
The finding is cause for some concern among migraine sufferers: Earlier research has linked these specific types of lesions (called "deep white matter hyperintensities") to an increased risk of stroke and dementia.
"For migraine patients, hearing about something like brain lesions is understandably quite alarming," says Deborah Friedman, MD, a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. "But we have reason to be optimistic that this isn't cause for panic."
Indeed, during the nine-year study period, female patients with migraines didn't exhibit elevated instances of stroke or memory loss. Other research, however, does show an increased risk of stroke—meaning additional study is needed to nail down the precise connections.
If you do suffer from migraines, take extra precautions to minimize your health risks, says Friedman. "Addressing other lifestyle factors, like smoking and exercise, might very well be more important," she says. "These are factors we know to be strongly associated with stroke."
Experts don't know whether preventing or treating migraines can reduce the progression of lesions. At the very least, avoiding migraines—and knocking them out when they strike—means less pain and suffering. Consider the following tips to help manage migraine headaches:
Know your triggers:Keep track of potential migraine triggers, including caffeine, alcohol, inadequate sleep, and missed meals. Bad headaches can be caused by any of these factors, all of which can be fixed. (For more migraine catalysts, check out these 7 Weird New Headache Causes.)
Consider alternatives:Migraine sufferers can choose from a variety of prescription treatments, but alternative methods might also offer relief. Acupuncture, massage, and vitamin B2 supplements have all shown potential benefit in preventing or treating migraine headaches.
Video: Migraine Patient
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