Migraines can alter brain structure

By Shayna Brouker • Published: February 21st, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

It’s happening again — you start seeing stars and feeling queasy. It’s a migraine, and it seems the only solution is to hole up in a dark room and sleep it off. Now, new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that women who have migraines are more likely to accumulate brain lesions than those who don’t suffer from these debilitating headaches. The good thing is these lesions don’t seem to cause permanent damage.

More than three-quarters of women in the study had an increase of spots in the white matter of their brain, while only 60 percent of non-migraine sufferers had brain changes. Researchers cautioned that migraine-sufferers shouldn’t get scared, though because the lesions don’t change cognitive function. The frequency and severity also don’t increase the number of spots that accrue over time. While the lesions probably can’t be healed, they might not be caused by migraines.

More research is needed to determine the relationship between the lesions and migraines, but in the meantime there are some tweaks and tricks you can use to tame the terrible twinge of a migraine. Fifteen percent of American suffer from migraines, most of them women. Menstrual periods often ramp up the mean reds in 60 percent of women, but hormone therapy might help. Your genes might be to blame — they run in families, with children having a 50 to 75 percent chance of getting them too. Weather changes and motion sickness can bring on a bad one. Bright lights, loud noises, stress and overstimulation in general can also trigger migraines, but a regular sleep schedule can keep them at bay. Triptan is a medicine known to narrow blood vessels and thereby soothe pain and nausea.

With medicine and careful management, migraines don’t have to be a show-stopper.