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History of Migraines Linked to Increased Risk of Retinopathy

Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, have found out that middle-aged people with a history of migraine and other headaches are at a higher risk of retinopathy than others.

Retinopathy is described as damage to the retina of the eye that can lead to severe vision problems or blindness.

The study, published in Neurology, follows the headache history and eye health of 10,902 men and women who participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study.

Participants who were from communities in Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi and North Carolina were black and white, and between the ages of 51 and 71 at the time of their examination.

Twenty-two percent of the participants had a history of migraine or other headaches. Participants with a history of headaches were slightly younger, more likely to be female, and more likely to be white than those without a history of headaches.

It was found that people with headaches were at 1.3 to 1.5 times higher risk of retinopathy than those without headaches.

The association was stronger among participants who did not have a history of diabetes or hypertension, and limited to those with migraine headaches and other headaches with aura (visual disturbances).

"Middle-aged people with a history of migraine and other headaches are more likely to have retinopathy. This association persisted after controlling for diabetes, glucose levels, cigarette smoking, blood pressure and use of blood pressure medications," said the lead study author Kathryn M. Rose, research assistant professor of epidemiology at the UNC School of Public Health.

"Our findings suggest that problems in the circulatory system of small blood vessels may be an underlying factor. This is possible given that anatomically and physiologically small blood vessels in the retina and brain are similar. Our findings are also consistent with previous studies linking migraine and retinopathy with the occurrence of stroke," added the author.


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