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Can Chronic Migraine Lead To Long-Term Brain Damage?

Can Chronic Migraine Lead To Long-Term Brain Damage?
Can Chronic Migraine Lead To Long-Term Brain Damage?

Yes, in the long run, chronic migraine can cause severe damage to the brain. Read on to understand how this happens.

Written by Satata Karmakar |Published : March 20, 2023 9:00 AM IST

As a main headache disorder, migraine is among the most prevalent. It has been seen that about 33% of women (1 in every 3) and 13% of men experience migraine at some point in their life. It typically begins during the teenage and the severity and frequency of headaches increase up to the third and fourth decade of life. After this, the pain gradually decreases. In certain cases, genetic factors also increase the risk of developing this disorder. spoke to Dr Shruti Vadke, Associate Consultant, Neurology, Manipal Hospital, Baner- Pune, to understand the connection between a migraine and brain damage. Let's know what she has to say.

Migraine Headaches: Triggers and Risk Factors

Every patient with a migraine has different triggers for an episode of headache. The commonly described triggers include:

  1. Emotional stress
  2. Missed meals
  3. Sleep disturbance
  4. Exposure to the sun
  5. Certain strong smells
  6. Alcohol, and
  7. Fluctuating female hormones

The sensitivity of a migraine patient's brain to different triggers varies on different days. There is a stage of prodrome 1-2 hours before the headache where the patient feels fatigued, irritable, yawning, neck pain, blurring of vision, and light/noise sensitivity.

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A small proportion of people have an aura where they experience visual phenomena like flashes of light or wavy lines. The actual headache is of a moderate-severe intensity, usually on one side of the head, that worsens with routine physical activity. The patient is usually sensitive to lights and sounds during this time. He or she may also experience nausea or vomiting. Migraine patients generally prefer to rest in a dark, quiet room.

"The intensity of migraine headaches can be so severe that sometimes patients wonder if it causes any long-term damage to the brain. There is some research that shows that brain scans in patients with chronic migraine have some white matter lesions. But systematic reviews over the years show that these lesions are usually not associated with any neurological problems in the future," Dr Vadke said.

There are studies which show that patients with migraine with aura have an increased risk for the development of stroke. Mood disorders including anxiety and depression are more common in migraine patients. Migraine can negatively affect many important aspects of life including relationships, career/ financial achievements and overall health, especially in chronic migraine patients. Hence, it is important to get timely medical advice and properly manage this neurological condition.

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