As brain cells swell during a migraine, they become starved of oxygen, which may cause brain damage — at least in rats — according to a newly released study. This damage may help explain other findings that people with migraine have a higher risk of stroke. Here’s an excerpt of the article on brain damage and migraine:
“They studied a process called cortical spreading depression, known as CSD, a wave of changes in cells associated with migraine, stroke and head trauma.
“They used a precise two-photon microscopic and oxygen sensor microelectrodes to look at the brains of live mice while they caused this process.
“They saw a swelling occur and the brain cells became starved of oxygen. The nerve cells were damaged — specifically the dendrites, the long, thin spikes that stretch from one nerve cell to another.”
This highlights the importance of using preventives rather than just painkillers during a migraine. Not having a migraine at all prevents other symptoms and the potential for brain damage. In contrast, painkillers treat the pain, they don’t keep the migraine from wreaking havoc on the brain. I’m not sure where triptans fall on this scale, but certainly aborting a migraine is better than having one.
Some good may come from having migraine. A study released last week found that migraine sufferers show less cognitive decline and memory loss than those without migraine.
However, that good news is muddied by other studies showing that people with migraine suffer from brain changes and a risk of brain lesions. Not to mention another new study noted an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
How much more will it take for people to see that migraine isn’t just about headaches?