The variant seems important for those who have headaches with aura, researchers say,,
THURSDAY, July 31 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists say they've spotted a gene that may lessen the risk of migraines with aura.
However, the risk is still there, and if the person goes on to develop migraines with aura, this migraine-protective gene actually boosts their risk for stroke.
"There is a reduced association of migraine with aura with this gene, but if you have migraine with aura, the risk of stroke is magnified," said study senior author, Dr. Tobias Kurth, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
Using data from just over 25,000 white women who participated in the Women's Health Study, Tobias and his team found that almost 4,600 -- or about 18 percent -- of the women reported a history of migraine.
From that group, nearly 40 percent said they had migraines accompanied by an aura. An aura is a visual disturbance, such as seeing flashing lights.
During nearly 12 years of follow-up, 625 women had a cardiovascular event, such as a stroke, according to the study, which appears in the July 30 online issue of Neurology.
The researchers reviewed the data to see which women carried a particular form of the gene MTHFR 677C -- a gene that had been suggested by prior research as a possible link between migraine with aura and stroke. They found that 11 percent of the study population carried this gene variant.
Alone, the MTHFR 677C variant doesn't appear to raise the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, in women with the gene and a history of migraine with aura, the researchers found more than three times the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Kurth said it's too soon to start recommending that anyone have genetic testing done, even if they do have migraines with auras.
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