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Migraine with aura may be linked to all stroke types

Updated: June 26, 2013 03:02 PM
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WEDNESDAY, June 26 (HealthDay News) -- Women who have migraine headaches with aura are at increased risk for stroke, a new study indicates.

Migraine with aura is a migraine that's preceded or accompanied by visual effects such as flashes of light or blind spots, or by tingling in the hand or face.

A study of almost 28,000 women in the United States found those who had migraine with aura were at greater risk for all types of strokes, according to the researchers, who are scheduled to present the findings Wednesday at a meeting of the International Headache Congress in Boston.

"Migraine with aura has been consistently linked with increased risk of ischemic stroke and there is also some evidence that it increases risk of hemorrhagic stroke," lead author Dr. Tobias Kurth, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said in a congress news release.

An ischemic stroke is caused by blocked blood flow to the brain while a hemorrhagic stroke is caused by bleeding in the brain.

"In this study we sought to determine the importance of migraine with aura in stroke occurrence relative to other stroke risk factors," Kurth added.

The study included 1,435 women who had migraine with aura. None of the patients had heart disease at the start of the study.

During 15 years of follow-up, there were 528 strokes overall -- 430 ischemic strokes, 96 hemorrhagic strokes and two unknown types of strokes.

"For total, ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, migraine with aura was a strong relative contributor," Kurth said in the news release.

About 36 million Americans suffer from migraine, more than the total number of Americans who have asthma or diabetes combined. Migraine costs the United States more than $20 billion in direct medical expenses, such as doctor visits and medications, and indirect expenses, such as missed work and lost productivity.

The data and conclusions of research presented at medical meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about migraine.

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