If you have migraine, keep stroke on the radar

Experiencing undue pressure or mental stress is a matter of grave concern. People often complain about headaches due to long working hours or working late into the night. The cause could also be genetic or triggered by situational factors. No matter what the reason is, you should certainly give it some careful thought and not just perpetuate the problem with an over-the-counter drug. What you will be doing is just smothering the symptoms and becoming addicted to it.

I myself was a victim to the habit of relying on pain killers but since switching to natural remedies, I have been all the better for it. The root cause behind extreme headaches may be mistaken as strokes and migraines have many symptoms in common. Studies have found that if you frequently get severe migraines you may have higher chances of developing a stroke. However, the risk may be minimal.

Differentiating between migraine and stroke

Migraine is a neurological disorder with usually very severe recurring headaches and throbbing, accompanied by other symptoms. People plagued with this extreme form of headache commonly know the mental torture they go through. It can drastically impact your social and work life or may be the very reason for your suffering.

Stroke, however, can be rightly called a medical emergency caused by restricted blood flow to the brain. If the condition worsens, it may develop into complications and a mental disability.

The link between migraine and stroke

One morning I woke up with a severe headache. Until the night before, I was perfectly fine and the sudden surge of muscle spasms in my brain got me highly concerned. Moreover, I felt muscle weakness on one side of the body and even loss of vision in one eye. I got really worried as to what might possibly be happening with me. I immediately got up and decided to see my family doctor. This is what I learnt.

The symptoms that I was experiencing were related to migraine but could possibly have been mistaken for those of a stroke. The relationship is certainly complicated. Imagine learning that having migraine puts you in a predisposition of developing stroke. Freaky, isn’t it? Research suggests that having migraine with aura doubles the risk of stroke, since you are likely to develop a blockage, the risk being higher in women than in men. Other common risk factors include:

  • Being older than 45
  • Being a smoker
  • Being on birth control pills

A recent study published in July 2015 in the American Academy of Neurology suggests that older people who had migraines had an increased risk of stroke if they were also smokers. Among smokers, having migraine meant you were three times more likely to have a stroke, whereas this risk was absent in non-smokers.

Migrainous Infarction (Migrainous stroke)

As the name suggests, the link between migraine and stroke is strongly established here. According to medscape, migraine with ‘aura’ is a major contributor to all types of stroke. In migrainous aura, before the onset of the migraine headache, your visual, sensory and motor capabilities are hampered, you often experience flashes of light and this may lead to stroke.

Important changes to notice during migraine include constriction of blood vessels leading to reduced blood flow. Sounds familiar? Clots may form in the blood blocking the narrowed blood vessel. Blood volume may also decrease due to dehydration and vomiting. Many reasons can thus be attributed to increased risk of stroke. Migraine attacks damage the blood vessels with an increased incidence of fluid building up in there (oedema). This is evidence enough that you should certainly not let migraine pass like any other headache and take appropriate action.