Are migraines dangerous to my health?

Yes, a migraine can potentially hurt you. Beyond the burden and distress of having throbbing, unrelenting pain in your head and neck, those heightened experiences of light and sound create more pain and dysfunction. Migraine throws your brain nervous system into disarray.

Migraine is actually the third most common disease in the world. That’s about 1 in 7 people suffering from migraine, with women suffering migraine about three time more than men.

Whats worse: An article in the Journal of the American Medical Associations (JAMA) published in 2020 reviewed the results of  a study of health care workers who were women and at least 45 years of age. Of those women, those who had migraine with aura were more at risk for cardiovascular events, such as heart attack.

A basic definition of migraine is as follows:

A chronic headache disorder that comes and goes with pain episodes that involve any part of the head or face, recurrent, and lasts four to seventy-two hours (treated or untreated). The pain intensity can be moderate to severe, and it is often unilateral and pulsating, although there are many migraine patterns depending on the migraine sufferer. Most importantly, a migraine can cause suffering, lost work time, lost family time, and a drag on overall health.

A migraine is not just a headache, and it is often associated with the following physical and mental (neurological) symptoms:

  • Stomach or GI problems including nausea and vomiting.
  • Physical changes such as decreased activity
  • Thinking and speech problems
  • Balance problems

Approximately 1/3 of people who suffer from migraine attacks have what is call a migraine aura. An aura is a neurological function problem due to specific changes in the neural network or your brain activity. An aura can occur before the head and neck pain of a migraine actually starts.  Auras can also involve sensations that spread to the face, and transient problems with swallowing.

However, vision symptoms are the most common type of aura. People with auras can experience:

  • Transient visual loss of most of the vision or in a semi-circle shape
  • Seeing jagged lines of light
  • Seeing colors in kaleidoscope.

Women with migraine with aura are also 2.4 times more likely to have an ischemic stroke.

An ischemic stroke can be caused by a clot that forms in the heart, and then moves to the brain through the connected blood vessels (also known as cardio-embolic stroke). A clot can also occur in a part of the blood vessel supplying blood to the brain (also known as thrombotic stroke). Part of the risk of a migraine comes from the fact that the brain activity associated with a migraine headache can cause spasm or clogging of a blood vessel. Furthermore, the many numbers of women who experience migraine and take oral contraceptives should understand that they may be at increased risk for a stroke compared to women with migraine aura who do not take oral contraceptives.

Your Brain Doctor is for you to understand the less well known health risks of certain neurological conditions for women.


References:|About migraine|Migraine-what is it? > Facts and Figures