Migraines Linked to More Brain Lesions Among Women

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A new study shows that women who experience migraines have shown a higher prevalence and greater increase in deep white matter hyperintensities (brain lesions) than those who do not. However, the number, frequency, and severity of the migraines the women experienced were not associated with lesion progression.

The study, published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at the association between migraine frequency, brain lesions, and cognitive decline. 286 participants in the 2000 Cerebral Abnormalities in Migrane Epidemiological Risk Analysis were given MIR scans in 2009. Researchers found that 77% of the women in the migrane group had progression of brain lesions, compared to 60% of the control group. Among men, no association was found between migraines and brain lesions. The results were controlled for age, sex, hyper tension, diabetes, and level of education.

"In addition, the number of migraines, frequency of migraines, migraine severity, type of migraine, and migraine therapy were not associated with lesion progression," said the study's authors. "Increase in deep white matter hyperintensity volume was not significantly associated with poorer cognitive performance at follow-up."

In the past, brain lesions have been associated with cognitive decline, as well as atherosclerotic disease risk factors and an increased risk of ischemic stoke. Migraines affect up to 15% fo the general population, according to the study's authors.

"In summary, in a community-based cohort followed up for 9 years, migraine was associated only with a higher incidence of deep white matter brain changes among women," said the study's authors. "There were no significant associations of migraine with progression of other brain lesions among women, and there were no associations of migraine headache with progression of any brain lesions among men. These findings raise questions about the role of migraine headaches with progression of cerebral vascular changes. The functional implications of MRI brain lesions in women with migraine and their possible relation with ischemia and ischemic stroke warrant further research."

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