Do migraines cause lesions on the brain ? | Top Health FAQ Channel
BREAKING: Migraines Change Your Brain 44%
You can feel it coming—the sensitivity to the fluorescent lighting in your office, the dull throbbing making its way up your neck, and maybe even tunnel vision or blind spots. And then comes the pain, which leads to nausea, and the sudden desire to put your head under the covers and not emerge until it’s officially tomorrow.
Yep, you’re one of the 10-15% of the general population that suffer from migraines. But before you pop that painkiller and wait for the storm to pass, know this: a new study discovered how migraines—especially ones with aura—permanently alter the structure of your brain.
In a meta-analysis published inNeurology, researchers found that migraine with aura increases your risk of white matter, infarct-like brain lesions by 68% and a 44% increase in risk for change in brain volume—the increase or decrease in brain tissue. No aura? You risk for brain lesions is still rises 34%.
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Before you run to the nearest MRI machine, know that brain structure changes throughout your life, “especially during development when you’re sculpting your brain, and later in life when you’re losing tissue,” says Deborah Yurgelun-Todd, PhD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Utah School of Medicine. Structural changes are usually related to the death of brain cells, and the frequency and severity of your migraines contribute to just how much cell death is occurring.
In other words: your migraines are contributing to the early onset of cell death and brain tissue loss that usually happens with age.
The lesions—known as ILLs—caused by the migraines are common in the elderly, in those who have hypertension, and in people with some psychiatric disorders, says Dr. Yurgelun-Todd. In the case of migraines, the lesions “likely represent small strokes,” says study author Richard Lipton, MD, co-director of the Montefiore Headache Center. So small, you didn’t even know you were having them. Visible on brain scans, these silent lesions aren’t cancerous and slowly accumulate with age; in fact, you’re likely to already have a few if you’re middle aged. A few of these are harmless, but if you have a pattern of severe migraines, chances are you have more than a few.
It’s the same story with volume loss—it happens naturally as we age, and is usually one part of the reason your elderly relatives are a little less ‘with it.’ Your migraines are speeding up that decay. The study reported an increase and decrease of brain tissue volume, but loss is more concerning.
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“Individuals who have migraines are experiencing a neurobiological change that causes cells to die,” explains Dr. Yurgelun-Todd. “Loss of tissue may not have an effect at first, but if you have enough, you may end up being less efficient cognitively.” The good news: migraine-induced volume loss is reversible with treatment.
But how many of you call up the doctor when you feel one coming on? Knowing that each and every migraine has a (mostly) permanent effect on your brain structure, the best thing you can do is start writing down patterns—including what you ate, your environment, and where you are in your menstrual cycle to determine what triggers your migraines.
Then, do what you can to facilitate healthy blood flow to your brain. Unfortunately, not all experts are in agreement about what really happens during a migraine, but “the most prevalent idea is that there are changes in the brain due to dysfunction in delivering enough blood and nutrients to different brain regions—causing tissue loss,” explains Dr. Yergulen-Todd. (A healthy cardio system and eating for your brain are two good places to start.)
Bottom line: Migraines are no longer a painful annoyance you can play off as something that you just have to deal with. Your brain is going to change as you get older no matter what, and not for the better.
Video: What happens in the brain to cause a migraine ? | Best Health FAQ Channel
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