Women are more likely than men to suffer migraines and new research shows that those who do suffer the painful headaches are more likely to have lesions on their brain from poor blood flow.
CBS News reports the good news is that the lesions do not appear to be dangerous, though their full effect is not known.
“The fact that there is no evidence of cognitive loss among these women is good news,” Linda Porter, pain health science policy adviser in the Office of the Director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), said in a press release. “We’ve known for a while that women with migraine tend to have these brain changes as seen on MRI. This nine-year study is the first of its kind to provide long-term follow-up looking for associated risk.”
Time reports that women, or men, who suffer migraines should not be worried that each headache is causing them brain damage. The changes on the brain as a result are minimal, and no change in migraine treatments are recommended. The lesions are a result of poor brain flow.
The report was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It studied 300 adults in the Nederlands and most suffered from migraines, though some did not. They scanned participants brains in 2000, and then again in 2009.
The lesions, referred to as hyperintensities, occurred in men at the same rates regardless of whether or not the men had migraine headaches. Women with migraines were almost twice as likely to have changes in the volume of widespread white matter. The white matter has been linked in the past to dementia and stroke, but cognitive tests by the researchers found no loss of mental function.