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JAMA: Migraines in Women

Almost 15 percent of the general population is affected by the headaches. Previous research has show that patients experiencing migraines had a higher risk of developing small lesions in the brain’s white matter. A new study re-examined these individuals to assess whether they continued to have these same patterns of changes in the brain.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- Almost 15 percent of the general population is affected by the headaches. Previous research has show that patients experiencing migraines had a higher risk of developing small lesions in the brain’s white matter. A new study re-examined these individuals to assess whether they continued to have these same patterns of changes in the brain.

Almost anyone experiencing a migraine says it often comes with debilitating symptoms.

Dr. Lenore Launer from the National Institute on Aging and co-authors examined a group of randomly selected middle aged men and women living in the Netherlands.

“In 2000, we identified around 435 individuals, some of whom did not have migraine and some who did have migraine,” Dr. Launer said.

Researchers assessed the patients’ migraine headache characteristics medical history and brain images. They found those with migraines had a higher risk of experiencing small lesions in the white matter of the brain than those without migraine. In 2009, these same patients were re-examined.

"The people with migraine had a two times increased risk for those lesions to either progress or for new lesions. Particularly among women, there was evidence of an increased risk of having these small white hyper-intensities on the MRI scan,” Dr. Launer continued.

They’re called hyper-intensities because on the MRI they look very bright.

"There was no association between having these lesions and whether or not somebody could function cognitively which means performance on tests of memory, speed of processing and concentration," Dr. Launer said.

There is also no proof that these headaches cause the lesions. However, some evidence suggests that lesions in the white matter may be associated with a migraine attack.

"This really changes the game in terms of thinking that migraine is an intermittent condition that does not leave any lasting trace on the brain to something where it's a more chronic condition where there actually is some evidence left as a result of the migraine," Dr. Launer said.

Researchers had also found that the frequency and severity of migraines were not associated with white matter lesion development. Researchers point out that these results have no clinical implications and should not change how patients and physicians manage migraine care. There was also no association between migraines and the progression of any brain lesions in men.

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