If you've ever had a migraine, you probably understand why the intense headache is so debilitating. But researchers have uncovered more reasons to be apprehensive of migraines: It appears the headaches can also alter the structure of your brain.
"Traditionally, migraine has been considered a benign disorder without long-term consequences for the brain," study author Messoud Ashina of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark said in a press release. But "the disorder may permanently alter brain structure in multiple ways."
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People who get migraines have a heightened risk of brain lesions, white matter abnormalities and altered brain volume compared to those who don't. And people who suffer from migraine with aura (symptoms before a migraine starts) have an even higher increased risk: White matter brain lesions were 68 percent more likely in those with aura, and 34 percent more likely in those who experience migraines alone.
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The research team analyzed data from MRI brain scans from six population-based studies and 13 clinic-based studies to calculate the risks. What isn't known is how the altered brain structures may affect how your brain works.
"We hope that through more study, we can clarify the association of brain structure changes to attack frequency and length of the disease," Ashina said. "We also want to find out how these lesions may influence brain function."