Migraine with Aura Increases Risk of Stroke

Patients who suffer from migraine with aura are more than twice as likely to experience an ischemic stroke than the general population, according to new research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

Patients who suffer from migraine with aura are more than twice as likely to experience an ischemic stroke than the general population, according to new research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2016 in Los Angeles, California.

‘With aura’ indicates that a patient experiences neurological symptoms — such as blind spots, flashes of light, or tingling in the hand or face – before the migraine ensues. Migraine without aura is the more common type and the headache develops more gradually sans the symptoms. However, for the 20% of patients that fall into the ‘with aura’ category, they have an increased risk of stroke.

The ongoing 25-year study involved 12,844 adults ages 45 to 64, both those with and without migraine with aura. A total of 817 of them suffered from an ischemic stroke from a clot or mass clogs in a blood vessel.

“If we are going to prevent people with migraines with aura from having a stroke, it’s important to know what types of stroke they’re having and then be vigilant about it,” Souvik Sen, MD, MPH, a neurologist at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, said in a news release.

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Previous studies of analyzed the association between migraines with aura and ischemic strokes, but this is the first one to detail ischemic stroke subtype risks.

Patients with migraine with aura were 2.4 times more likely to have an ischemic stroke. They were also three times more likely to have the ischemic stroke caused by a clot or mass in the heart that traveled to the brain, called a cardio-embolic stroke. Finally, these patients were twice as likely to have an ischemic stroke by a clot that developed in a clogged part of the blood vessel which supplies blood to the brain, called a thrombotic stroke. There wasn’t, however, an association between migraine with aura and lacunar stroke, described as an ischemic stroke due to blockage of small arteries which provide blood to deep brain structures.

Sen explained that since migraines affect blood vessels in the brain, and their research shows that there is a great incidence of strokes due to blood clots in the heart and brain, then migraines may also have an influence on blood vessels in the heart and neck.

“If you get migraines with aura, make sure your stroke risk factors are assessed by your doctor, Sen advised.

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