Got a splitting headache? get it checked now - The New Indian Express

Got a splitting headache? get it checked now

Published: 04th September 2013 08:13 AM

Last Updated: 04th September 2013 11:19 AM

Those who suffer from head-splitting migraines often wonder if their condition affects their brain. The journal Neurology recently published a study by Danish researchers that concluded that there are structural differences in the brains of people suffering from migraines when compared to those who don’t.

An analysis of 20 studies revealed tiny lesions in the brain’s white matter but it also said that further research was required to understand the inferences.

Dr Fayyaz Ahmed, who chairs British Association for the Study of Headache, has been quoted in news reports elsewhere as saying, “It’s been well-known for some time that migraineurs, particularly those with aura, have silent high signal intensity lesions in the brain more than the general population. However, the significance of this remains uncertain.

“It would be too premature to say that a migraineur’s brain is at high risk of future structural or functional problems unless there are long-term longitudinal studies done.”

Bangalore-based Dr Amit Agarwal, of MediHope, agrees with treating the research’s findings with caution because it collides with the very definition of a migraine.

He says, “Migraine is a functional problem, not a structural one. An MRI of someone suffering from migraine nine out of 10 times will turn up negative. In fact, the diagnosis for migraine is one of elimination; that is, when all other causes of a persistent, recurrent and localised headache have been ruled out, it is suggested that the person is perhaps suffering from migraines. The unique thing about migraines is that it has no pathology.”

This means that if any abnormality such as a tumour, degeneration, lesion or an ischemic change is detected in the brain, the headaches are decidedly not brought on by a migraine.

“For instance, if a CT scan shows blocked sinuses then you know the recurring headaches are due to sinus and not migraine,” says Dr Agarwal.

Migraine requires specific medication that can only be prescribed by a doctor.

“The problem is that many self-diagnose their headache to be a migraine. Often times I have seen, that on inquiry, the reason of the headaches has turned out to be something else entirely from that presumed by the patient. It is necessary to consult a neurophysican if one suffers from constant headaches to know exactly what is causing them,” says Dr Agarwal.

Since the cause of migraine is still a mystery, its cure still eludes us.

“But what have become popular are alternative therapies like music therapy, relaxation techniques, yoga, meditation and a change in lifestyles. Think of it as an allergy that can react to certain stimuli and this differs from person to person. Of course, stress is a common trigger,” says Dr Agarwal.

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