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Migraines Linked to Brain Lesions, Strokes in Women

July 9th 2009

Middle-aged women who experience migraines with aura, visual or sensory disturbances, are four times more likely to suffer a stroke than women without migraines.
By Anelise Qumerais

Middle-aged women who experience migraines with aura, visual or sensory disturbances, are four times more likely to suffer a stroke than women without migraines, according to a new study, while a second study finds that women who suffer migraines accompanied by aura are more likely to develop brain lesions when they are older.

Doctors cautioned that brain lesions, or infarcts, do not necessarily pose health risks.

"It is premature to conclude that migraine has hazardous effects on the brain," said Tobias Kurth, MD, ScD, of the University Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, referring to the migraine-stroke study, according to WebMD. "However, the study raises important questions. New studies examining the association of migraine with structural brain changes and brain function should improve understanding of the associations and perhaps further unveil migraine-specific mechanisms."

Both studies suggest migraines are more than a passing condition and may cause long-term damage.

In the second study, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, the relationship between brain infarcts and migraines were studied in 4,689 Icelandic men and women. Brain scans performed 26 years later revealed that 23 percent of women with migraines had infarcts, while only 15 percent of women without migraines had the lesions.

In the other study, published by the journal Neurology, researchers analyzed data of 27,000 women in the United States, finding that women with had migraines with aura at least once a week were four times more likely to have a stroke compared to women who did not have migraines.