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Can Migraines Damage Your Brain

Make Sure You Are Properly Valued

What happens to your brain during a migraine – Marianne Schwarz

Having too big a workload, not getting compensated or rewarded for your work, and feeling like your work situation is unfair all contribute to burnout, according to researchers. In practical terms, what this means is that you may have to speak up. If people are piling too much work on you, either find a way to delegate some of it, or let the people you work for know that it’s too much.

We all would like to be paid more, but if you feel like your pay is so low as to be unfair, make your case for greater compensation. If you feel like the company doesn’t share your values, that too can be a recipe for burnout, and it can also be a tough problem to solve. You can try to change your company’s values or at least make people more aware of them. But if there’s a mismatch between your values and your employer’s, the only way to escape burnout may be to find another job.

How Headaches Cause Changes In The Brain

Scientific research has led to the conclusion that headaches may be doing more damage than simply causing pain. In some cases, headaches are acting like tiny transient strokes which leave the brain inadequate of oxygen and change it in significant ways. This makes it more important than ever to try to get control of headaches and migraines.

Maiken Nedergaard, MD, Ph.D., the neuroscientist who led the study, said the focus of headache care right now is to try to reduce pain. Now, it is imperative we try to prevent headaches from occurring altogether due to the possibility of brain damage. Preventing headaches not only stops the pain but also minimizes potential damage. She suggests becoming proactive when it comes to avoiding triggers and using whatever method that works to reduce the incidence of headaches.

A Migraine May Change Your Brain

A new study found that migraine may be associated with structural changes in the brain

Experts said there is no cause for concern about long-term cognitive changes

Editors Note: This story was originally published on in 2013.

About 37 million Americans suffer from migraines, those incredibly painful and often debilitating headaches. Though theyve been known to knock a person out, migraines werent thought to permanently affect the brain until now. A study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology suggests that migraines may indeed leave a mark.

Our review and meta-analysis study suggests that the disorder may permanently alter brain structure in multiple ways, said study author Dr. Messoud Ashina, a neurologist at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

Also Check: Migraine With Fever

What Symptoms Must You Have To Be Diagnosed With A Migraine

Migraine with aura . This is a headache, plus:

  • Visual symptoms or vision loss.
  • Sensory symptoms .

Migraine without aura . A common migraine is a headache and:

  • The attacks included pain on one side of your head.
  • Youve had at least five attacks, each lasting between four and 72 hours.

Plus, youve experienced at least one of the following:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Lights bother you and/or you avoid light.
  • Sounds bother you and/or you avoid sounds.

Whats The Link Between Migraines And Brain Lesions

National Migraine Registry Planned

Experts arenât sure why migraines are linked with brain lesions. But these things may play a role:

  • Blood clots and shortages. Migraine attacks may lower blood flow and pressure. They can also cause blood vessels to shrink. This sets the stage for tiny blood clots or a lack of blood to certain areas of the brain.
  • Tissue damage. During a migraine, the nerves in your brain kind of go haywire. They may work overtime and become inflamed.
  • Heart problems. Migraines are linked to two heart conditions: Patent foramen ovale is a hole in the heart. Mitral valve prolapse is when heart valves donât close fully, which may can cause a small leak. Both issues may lead to lesions.

Also Check: Faking A Migraine

Neurological Events Caused By Covid:

  • Headaches
  • Loss of smell
  • Hallucinations

After recovering some people can then experience serious neurological, behavioural or psychiatric disorders, due to the scars left in the brain.

These can include hallucinations and hearing sounds that aren’t there, as the brain reconfigures itself after the virus.

And you don’t have to have been struck down terribly badly to experience mild neurological issues or brain fog while recovering from Covid.

In fact, the brain fog is probably quite a common feeling for people emerging back into the world after the illness, even with milder Omicron.

It is simply from the virus having invaded – or tried to invade – your brain and the damage done to the cells in the subsequent battle.

But this doesn’t need to be a frightening read, as research shows the cells repair quickly and efficiently, as well as being pretty resilient.

It might just mean a few days, weeks, or months in some unlucky cases, of feeling not quite as sharp as normal – as your brain bounces back.

However if you or a loved one starts to display unusual behaviour or hallucinating, get medical help as soon as possible.

The Discovery Of Brain Damage Due To Headaches

Nedergaards team was able to get an in-depth look at the events happening in the brain of a mouse having a migraine because of combining two new types of imaging technology. What they discovered was a detailed and surprising account of supply and demand in regards to oxygen and blood flow. They saw the brain developing a strong demand for energy as it tries to recover from cortical spreading depression a very likely component of many migraine headaches. During the beginning of this phenomenon, the brain loses chemical balance. At this point, the brains arteries begin to expand greatly and make a lot more oxygen-rich blood available to meet the demand for energy. Even so, some areas of the brain have serious oxygen shortage. This leads to the disintegration of some of the brains tissue, not unlike what happens when you have a stroke.

Those involved in the study relate that this type of damage looks exactly like what happens when one has TIAs . It has long been known that migraine patients become impaired due to the pain. However, these recent studies show repetitive headaches alter a persons cognitive ability.

Deborah Friedman, MD, is a neurologist who was not part of the above study. She reports there have been a few studies showing people who have auras before a migraine are at increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and other vascular issues.

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What Have Previous Studies Reported

In the past, most studies were retrospective. Not only this, but most studies looked at a small number of people. These studies showed that migraines go along with depression, tremors, seizures, and stroke. They also showed that migraineurs have more problems with thinking clearly.

The problem is that we do not know how these are associated. For instance, did migraine cause stroke? Maybe people who have strokes are more likely to have headaches? Do migraines cause seizures? Or do seizures cause headaches? As with many retrospective studies, the answers are unclear.

Dr. Kalaydjian decided to clear up this confusion. For instance, if migraines cause strokes, we might expect that with more migraines, there should be more strokes. Over time, a person with migraine would have more and more trouble thinking clearly because of a slowly increasing number of strokes. In other words, the no-headache group might show some changes over time due to age. The migraine group would be expected to do worse.

Dr. Kalaydjian found the opposite answer. Instead of having more problems with thinking, the migraine group had fewer. Because the answer was unexpected, Dr. Kalaydjian went back and looked at the result in several ways.

Migraines Explained Through The Four Defining Stages

Dr. Peter Goadsby on Migraine and Brain Lesions

There are four stages of migraine attacks: prodrome, aura, the attack, and post-drome. Although, they vary differently from each person:

  • The prodrome stage often occurs one or two days before a migraine. Warning signs include constipation, extreme mood changes, and an insatiable appetite due to food cravings.
  • The aura stage usually develops during the pre-stages or in-between the event of a migraine attack. Some people can experience cognitive problems like speaking or difficulty in leg movements.
  • Pre or during the event of a migraine attack, some people can see flashes of light or a strange aura enveloping their eyesight that can cause visual disturbances.
  • Post-migraine, your body will feel exhausted for the entire day as it needs much-needed rest to recuperate from the mental and physical effects of the migraine.

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Watch The Video Below To See What’s True And What We Can Do

One of the most important things to us at Migraine Again is getting the story straight. Wade through the mistruths, misinformation and promotional content across the web to what’s legitimately helpful to migraine sufferers. One of our most viral articles included excerpts from a slightly misleading story: “Ouch! Every Migraine Attack is Actually Damaging Your Brain.” .

Frankly, this article alarmed a lot of people. You asked: Was it really true? Should I get a brain scan? What treatment should I be using to reverse the damage? We reached out directly to Dr. Richard B. Lipton, one of the study’s authors, to get the scoop. His response was a little surprising, and comforting at the same time.

If you haven’t read the original article, to the right, take two minutes to do so here. That will put Dr. Lipton’s remarks from our interview into the right context.

Migraines And The Brain

Multiple studies have found that people with migraines have an increased risk of brain lesions.

The two main types of lesions found in migraineurs include:

  • White matter hyperintensities : These lesions appear bright white on certain sequences of MRI scans. These abnormalities can also be seen in elderly people and patients with stroke and dementia. In migraineurs, they’re typically found in the frontal lobe, limbic system, and parietal lobe of the brain.
  • Silent brain infarcts: An infarct is a small area of dead tissue that’s a result of restricted blood flow to the area. When infarcts are “silent,” this means that they’re not linked to any obvious stroke-like symptoms. Silent infarcts in migraineurs have mostly been found in the cerebellum, the brainstem, the supratentorial region, and deep in the gray matter of the brain.

Experts have been trying to piece together the precise cause of these brain lesions, deciphering whether they’re caused by the effects of migraine itself or by some other factor specific to migraineurs.

Read Also: Acephalgic Migraine Mayo Clinic

The Head Pain Institute Can Provide Relief

While many migraine sufferers believe they must struggle through every migraine attack, Head Pain Institute patients have found relief from their symptoms and frequency of migraines. Let the experts at the Head Pain Institute be your first choice to provide effective and lasting migraine pain relief and treatment.


Assessment Of Infarct Lesions

Understanding Migraine

One neurologist with training in neuroradiology , who was blinded to the headache status and any other clinical data of participants, used a standardised assessment grid to visually review all the brain scans. The characteristics of lesions were visualised simultaneously in axial, coronal, and sagittal planes. A brain infarct was defined as focal lesions of 3 mm or more with the same signal characteristics as cerebrospinal fluid on both T1 and T2 weighted sequences, and these were discriminated from dilated vascular space according to their shapes and locations. We applied this definition to all lesions irrespective of location. An endpoint committee reviewed and classified doubtful lesions after consensus. For this analysis, we distinguished between infarcts in the cerebellum or brain stem and in other locations.

Read Also: What Piercing Stops Migraines

Do Migraines Lead To Brain Damage

A new study in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association finds frequent migraines are associated with an increased likelihood of brain lesions. And while it is not yet known if the lesions cause further health problems, doctors say it is more evidence migraines should not be treated as simple, episodic headaches, but rather a chronic condition similar to asthma or epilepsy.

“I had no idea there might be lesions,” says Debra Dolce of Crystal Lake, Ill., who has been receiving migraine treatment for more than 15 years. Keith Karasek, a migraine patient at the Diamond Headache Clinic in Chicago, Ill., concurs. “No, I haven’t , and I am surprised. I will go in next week and ask about this.”

Migraines occur when blood vessels in the brain constrict, causing pain and diminishing oxygen supply to surrounding tissue. While some kinds of migraines seem to be genetically linked, the base cause of migraines remains something of a mystery. The current theory is that migraine sufferers have a more sensitive nervous system than ordinary people do.

“We already know that migraineurs’ brains tend to be different,” explains Robert Kaniecki, director of the Headache Center and assistant professor of neurology at the University of Pittsburgh, Pa. “They are at increased risk for stroke and they tend to have abnormal MRIs .”

More Headaches Mean More Lesions

Taking Migraines Seriously

Is There a Cure? No, Say Some

The Significance Of Brain Lesions

We don’t really know what the significance of these brain lesions is yet. A number of studies have examined older people who do not have migraines but have white matter hyperintensities, and these lesions are associated with an increased risk of stroke, dementia, and thinking problems. Since migraine is associated with stroke, it’s possible that lesions in migraineurs could be an indication of a higher risk of stroke.

A 2012 study found that while female migraineurs had a higher incidence of white matter hyperintensities over a period of nine years compared to a control group, their cognitive functioning stayed the same. This indicates that these brain lesions may, in fact, mean nothing health-wise, which is reassuring news.

That said, if migraines and their associated brain lesions are found to have long-term neurological effects, this may alter the way neurologists treat episodic migraines. For example, healthcare providers may consider migraine preventive medication for episodic migraines in certain people who are at high risk for developing brain lesions or who already have them.

Also Check: How Does Tylenol Work On Headache

Migraine Headaches May Cause Brain Damage Mouse Study Shows

University of Rochester Medical Center
Migraines may be doing more than causing people skull-splitting pain. Scientists have found evidence that the headaches may also be acting like tiny transient strokes, leaving parts of the brain starved for oxygen and altering the brain in significant ways.

Migraines may be doing more than causing people skull-splitting pain. Scientists have found evidence that the headaches may also be acting like tiny transient strokes, leaving parts of the brain starved for oxygen and altering the brain in significant ways.

The scientists say the work makes it crucial for migraine sufferers to do everything they can to prevent their headaches. While avoiding severe pain has long been a motivating factor, the scientists say the risk of brain damage makes it imperative to prevent the headaches, by avoiding a person’s triggers for the headaches and by using medications prescribed by doctors to prevent them.

In short, the team found that the brain develops a voracious demand for energy as the organ attempts to restore the delicate chemical balance that is lost in the initial throes of a phenomenon known as cortical spreading depression, which is thought to underlie many migraines.

Friedman, a member of the board of directors of the American Headache Society who has treated thousands of headache sufferers, echoes Nedergaard’s call for a greater emphasis on prevention.

Can My Coughing Cause Brain Damage I Had A Bad Cough And Now I Have Severe Migrianes

Can the coronavirus cause permanent brain damage? | COVID-19 Special

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Implications For Clinical Practice

Our data confirm the association of migraine with white matter hyperintensities. They suggest, however, that this association is not specific to migraine headaches but extends to non-migraine headaches, most likely tension-type headaches. In addition, our data provide evidence that, irrespective of the underlying headache type, the existence of brain lesions among people who have headaches does not result in cognitive impairment. As the association between headache and brain infarcts is limited to the small subgroup of patients who have migraine with aura, our data do not support ordering brain imaging to rule out structural brain lesions for most people with primary headache disorders.

Overview Of Clinical Studies On Cognitive Dysfunction In Migraine

In another longitudinal study, health and behavior of individuals born in Dunedin, New Zealand between 1 April 1972 and 31 March 1973 were investigated and cognitive, neuropsychological and medical assessments were done at ages 3, 5, 7,9, 11, 13, 15, 18, 21 and 26 . At age 26, individuals were assessed for migraine and retrospectively 114 migraine patients, 109 tension type headache patients and 739 controls without headache were compared for performance in cognitive and neuropsychological tests. Migraine patients had impaired verbal ability at ages 3, 7, 9, 11, and 13, before the development of headache attacks, compared to controls without headache or subjects with tension type headache, but no decline with age was observed, suggesting that migraine did not cause verbal impairment itself but they had a shared risk factor . Although longitudinal studies do not provide convincing evidence that cognitive function worsens over time in migraine patients, participants in most longitudinal studies were older than those in cross sectional and clinic-based studies , and both active and non-active migraine patients were included , as potential confounders. The studies evaluating cognitive functions in migraine patients categorized according to age groups are summarized in Tables , , .

Table 1 Studies evaluating cognitive function in children with migraine

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