Migraines cause long-lasting changes to brain structure

Symptoms can include a pounding headache, nausea, vomiting and light sensitivity.

Migraine may have more impacts on your mind than you may have thought at first. Scientists have discovered that migraine could have long-lasting effects on the brain’s structure.

Traditionally, migraine has been considered a benign disorder without long-term consequences for the brain,” said Messoud Ashina, one of the researchers, in a news release. “Our review and meta-analysis study suggests that the disorder may permanently alter brain structure in multiple ways.”

Migraine affects about 10 to 15 percent of the general population and the impacts associated with migraine can cause a substantial personal, occupational and social burden. Symptoms can include a pounding headache, nausea, vomiting and light sensitivity. Because there are no official “cures” for migraine, this makes living with the condition difficult. That’s why it’s important to understand exactly what might cause migraine and what its effects might be on the brain.

In order to examine the impact of migraine, the researchers reviewed six population-based studies and 13 clinic-based studies. They examined whether people who experienced migraine or migraine with aura had an increased risk of brain lesions, silent abnormalities or brain volume changes on MRI brain scans in comparison to those without the conditions.

In the end, the researchers found that migraine with aura increased the risk of white matter brain lesions by 68 percent. Migraine with no aura, in contrast, increased the risk by 34 percent. The scientists also discovered that the risk for infarct-like abnormalities increased by 44 percent for those with migraine with aura compared to those without aura. In addition, brain volume changes were more common in people with migraine and migraine with aura than those with no migraines.

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

Currently the researchers plan to conduct further studies to investigate these lesions and migraine further.

The findings are published in the journal Neurology.



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