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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

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Migraine Linked to Brain Lesions

Damage Worse With More Frequent, More Severe Migraines

Brain Scans Show Lesions continued...

Women with migraines -- but not men with migraines -- were more likely to have these brain lesions. The more frequent their migraines, and the more they had migraine with aura, the more likely they were to have brain lesions.

"It is not clear why women are at more risk, and why they have more of these lesions," Launer says.

Some of the people in the study had infarcts: areas of dead brain cells. Men and women who had migraine with aura were nearly 14 times more likely to have infarcts in a particular area of the brain -- the cerebellum -- than normal people.

Donald B. Penzien, PhD, director of the head pain center at the University of Mississippi, Jackson, says the findings confirm his clinical impression of migraine.

"This makes sense. It matches up with the clinical symptoms of people with severe migraines," Penzien tells WebMD. "It shows that migraine is a brain disease."

Will Treating Migraine Prevent Brain Damage?

The study doesn't show whether these brain lesions really mean problems for people with migraine. And it didn't look at the question of whether early treatment might help.

"At this moment, the findings do not have a direct consequence for the management of migraine patients," Kruit admits. "Further studies are needed to assess whether the brain lesions have a clinical correlate. If so, preventing accumulation of brain lesions may be an additional goal in managing migraine patients: for instance, by risk factor modification, preventive therapy, or early abortion of migraine attacks."

Launer urges patients to remain calm.

"People don't need to run to their doctors to get an MRI," she says. "As for any health risk, you need to take care of yourself, and if you have migraine headaches, go to the doctor and see what he or she can do for you."

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