October 28, 2009

Migraine With Aura Adds To Stroke Risk

Doctors have found apparent links between severe migraine headaches and the risk of stroke, according to a new study.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, doctors noted that people who suffer from migraines along with blurred vision, known as "aura," are twice as likely to have a stroke.

That risk increases even more for people under the age of 45, women, those who smoke.

Additionally, researchers found that women who use contraceptives that contain estrogen are at an even higher risk of stroke.

Aura headaches are characterized by strange light vision, unpleasant smells or confusing thoughts. They can occur before or during the migraine.

"Clinicians may not agree but population studies show that up to a third of sufferers experience auras with their headaches," said Markus Schurks, of the Harvard Medical School and who led the study.

"And when you consider that as many as 40% of young women suffer from migraines you can see that it really makes an impact on the health of the population."

Researchers concluded that young women who have migraines with aura should consider quitting smoking and stop using birth control treatments that have estrogen.

"I think this research will help women to understand that for the majority there is no additional risk, and for women with aura the best policy to help themselves is to have a migraine management plan in place that helps reduce the frequency of attacks, and try to minimize the aura part of the attack," Lee Tomkins, director of the charity Migraine Action, told BBC Health.


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