Migraines and Stroke: Is there a link?

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Migraines and Stroke: Is there a link?

Migraine is a neurological disorder which is characterized by the occurrence of throbbing and recurring headaches that can interfere with the normal day to day life activities. Stroke is a medical emergency caused by a compromised blood supply to the brain. It could result in brain damage, eventually leading to complications and disability.

A pair of new studies suggests that migraine sufferers may face an increased risk of stroke if they suffer from visual symptoms called auras or if they are taking female hormone estrogen. People who have migraine headaches with auras are 2.4 times more likely to have a stroke caused by a blood clot as compared to migraine patients without auras. Women with migraines who take estrogen may be 30% more likely to suffer a clot-based stroke than women not taking medication containing estrogen.

These two risk factors could combine to pose a dangerous mix for some women with regards to their risk of stroke. Dr. Elizabeth Loder, chief of the headache and pain division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, conveyed, “Women who have migraine with aura probably want to think more carefully about the potential risk of stroke associated with using estrogen. I would not go so far as to say they should never use it, but they should think more carefully about it.”

The two studies focused on strokes caused by blood clots, which account for about 87% of all strokes in the United States. It has been previously found that migraine with aura is associated with a higher risk of stroke. About one in five migraine sufferers experience visual symptoms before a headache.

In a 25-year long study of nearly 13,000 American adults, researchers identified 817 patients who were suffered a blood-clot stroke. Specifically, people who have migraine with aura not only having a risk of stroke, are more likely to have a blood clot that forms in the heart, dislodge and travels to the brain. According to Study author, Dr. Souvik Sen said, “The aura is an effect of migraine on the blood vessels of the brain. When they have the vision symptoms, it could be an effect of the migraine on the blood vessels of the brain.”

The other study was focused on medications containing estrogen, which is an another risk factor for stroke. Loder added, “Estrogen, which is contained in hormone-replacement therapy and in certain kinds of combination birth control pills, increases the likelihood of blood clots.” Researchers analyzed the data for more than 82,000 women. All reported to have some degree of migraines and 45% were using hormone replacement therapy. At a follow-up visit three years later, women completed a questionnaire to determine if their migraines had gotten better or worse. Women who experienced worsening migraines who were taking hormone-replacement therapy were 30% more likely to have a clot-based stroke than migraine sufferers who either stopped taking or never took hormone-replacement therapy. Dr. Haseeb Rahma, study lead author added, “You should not simply ignore an increasingly bad migraine. You should also tell your doctor if you’re getting migraines for the first time while on hormone-replacement therapy.”

Thus, migraines with auras and estrogen medications are linked with an increased risk of stroke and it is necessary to remember the other risk factors also which are smoking and high blood pressure which can be quitted to reduce the risk of stroke.

Bel Marra Health
Exploratory, Migraine, Stroke, Hormone replacement therapy
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