TUESDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Women who suffer from migraines are more likely to have brain lesions than those who don't get the debilitating headaches, but new MRI research shows that the severity of those lesions does not correlate with greater memory or thinking problems.
"We found a higher volume of brain changes among women with migraines, but no evidence of a strong relationship between the attack rate or other related factors with the degree of lesions," said study author Dr. Mark Kruit, a neuroradiologist at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands.
The brain changes, also called "white matter hyperintensities," are believed to be caused by episodes of low oxygen to the cells, called ischemia. The lesions are associated with higher risk of atherosclerotic disease, ischemic stroke and cognitive decline, according to the researchers.
"From a broad perspective, we should probably understand migraines as a problem related to coronary artery disease," Kruit said. "The white matter hyperintensities are likely of ischemic origin, but we need further studies."
The study was published Nov. 14 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
About 12 percent of people in the United States get migraines, which are recurring attacks of moderate to severe throbbing or pulsing head pain, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. They are three times more common in women than in men.
As for why women are more prone to migraines than men, Kruit explained that previous studies implicate the female hormone estrogen.
The researchers developed this study to follow up on work published in 2004, Kruit said. "[That study] had a scary message: that females with migraines had more brain damage, and the researchers had no clue why they were seeing brain lesions," he explained. "They said that people with higher mi
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