For the study, Samuel's team reviewed the medical records of 702 patients who underwent gastric bypass surgery between March 2000 and September 2009. In addition to being obese, the patients also suffered from migraines. Of these patients, 81 were selected for the current study.
The researchers found that gastric bypass surgery improved or completely alleviated migraines in most patients. The most pronounced effect was among those patients whose headaches started after they became obese, the researchers note.
Of those who had their first migraine before becoming obese, 46 percent became migraine-free and 29 percent experienced some improvement, Samuel's group says.
These findings were independent of problems associated with migraine such as depression, anxiety or sleep apnea, the researchers added.
Other causes of headache in obese people include pseudotumor cerebri, or idiopathic intracranial hypertension, which is an increase in pressure around the brain that can feel like a migraine and may be caused by obesity. This type of headache also responds well to gastric bypass surgery, the researchers noted.
Commenting on the study, Dr. Elizabeth Loder, chief of the Division of Headache and Pain at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston said that "this is an interesting observation but the data seem quite preliminary."
In the absence of a control group, it is not possible to say whether the surgery and ensuing weight loss really "caused" the improvement in migraine, she said.
"Migraine is a condition that naturally waxes and wanes," Loder said. "Some of the improvement might simply reflect this variable disease activity. It is also the case that people who undergo surgery of any kind often report temporary improvement in headaches," she said.
Without a similar group of patients who did not undergo surgery, it is not possible to distinguish among these possibilities, Loder ex
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