• Shruti GOCHHWAL

How Migraines Affect the Rest of Your Body?

Migraine pain can be extreme, debilitating and pulsating and can hamper your daily activities. We all experience mild to severe forms of headaches during our lifetime. While most of the headaches tend to go away with a simple massage, rest or pain-killers, some headaches like migraines require extensive management.

What Is Migraine Headache?

Migraine is the most common neurological condition typically characterized by recurrent headaches that are often moderate to severe. It is a primary headache disorder, recognized by a pulsatile throbbing sensation in the head mostly on the unilateral side. Migraine headaches are one of the most common causes of absenteeism at work, and school which adversely affects the productivity of an individual. Migraine is associated with various comorbidities causing a greater degree of disability. The pain frequency and intensity of migraine varies from person to person and may accompany symptoms like vomiting, nausea, sensitivity to light and visual disturbances.

Health Risks Associated With Migraines

1.  Stroke

Caption: Stroke due to migraine

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Alt tags: Picture showing a man suffering from stroke

Research studies have suggested migraine to increase the likelihood of stroke. Stroke is a medical emergency condition where a part of the brain is damaged due to loss of blood supply. This is due to this inflammation inside your arteries which may result in blood clot, vasoconstriction, neurogenic inflammation and hypercoagulability. All of which may increase your risk of stroke.

  1. Coronary Artery Disease

: Coronary artery disease, pain

Caption: A woman holding her chest due to pain

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Alt tags: Coronary artery disease, pain

Individuals with migraine headaches are at potential risk of developing cardiovascular diseases (CVD), including hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia. It has been found that migraine with aura (a reversible set of neurologic symptoms arises before the migraine headache) can cause thickening of arteriolar small vessels and structural abnormalities in the heart like patent and foramen ovale (PFO). Patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a hole between the left and right atria (upper chambers) of the heart. Another possible reason behind migraine affecting your heart involves endothelial dysfunction and reduced level of endothelial progenitor cells.

  1. Visual symptoms

: Blurred picture

Caption: Blurred vision due to migraine

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Alt tags: Blurred picture

Migraine is preceded or accompanied by a variety of visual symptoms. Patients with migraine suffer from reduced blood flow in the retinal area or behind the eye which may result in several visual symptoms, such as “visual blurring”, “retinal migraine”, “ophthalmoplegic migraine”, photophobia, palinopsia, and “visual snow”. These visual problems are reversible and remain only for a short time

  1. Sleep Disorders

: Picture showing woman with sleep disorder

Caption: Woman feeling difficult to sleep

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Insomnia is by far the most common sleep disorder in migraine patients. Sleep disorders linked to migraine include insomnia, restless leg syndrome,  snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, irregularity in circadian rhythm, and narcolepsy. Evidence based research studies have concluded that serotonin levels are quite low in people with migraines,  but when migraine attacks serotonin levels significantly rise, contributing to the night awakenings. It has also reported that migraineurs with insomnia, are associated with a dysfunction in the brainstem that interferes with sleep stages.

  1. Obesity

obesity

Caption: Obese man checking his readings

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Alt tags: obesity

The association between obesity and migraine is found to be multifactorial and involves both central and peripheral mechanisms. It has been found that migraine stimulates the hypothalamus of the brain that controls hunger and bioactive neurotransmitters and neuropeptides. These neurotransmitters modulate the energy homeostasis, by modifying the levels of hormones like  serotonin, orexin, and the adiponectins. Thus, migraine is associated with increased risk of obesity.

  1. Anxiety And Depression

: Woman at home

Caption: Woman isolated in home due to depression

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Alt tags: Woman at home

Migraine headaches can precede the onset of mental disorders like anxiety and depression. Migraines can be a major factor in the development of a generalized anxiety disorder.

The neurological biochemicals that are known to trigger migraine attacks are found to be same in both depression and migraine. Symptoms of migraine like pain, insomnia, sensitivity to surroundings, and nausea can predispose a person to depression and anxiety disorder

  1. Pregnancy

Migraine can have serious effects on pregnant women and can also risk the baby’s growth and development. Research has shown that hormone fluctuations which occur during pregnancy like changes in estrogen levels may trigger migraine attacks. Pregnant women with migraine symptoms, accompanied by high blood pressure, can increase the risk of developing preeclampsia or other vascular complications leading to maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality.

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