Risk of heart attacks, strokes and thrombosis increases in migraine sufferers
Migraines are characterized by relapsing headaches, which may be accompanied by so-called aura symptoms. Those affected are often severely restricted by the migraines in their old days. In several recent studies, an increased risk of vascular diseases in patients with migraines has also been identified.
In a communication from the German Society for Neurology reports, private lecturer Dr. med. Charly Gaul, Secretary General of the German Migraine and Headache Society (DMKG), that two large recent studies from the USA and Denmark had shown that "migraine sufferers suffer heart attacks, strokes and venous thrombosis somewhat more often." The studies were published in the specialist magazines "BMJ open" and "BMJ".
Overall mortality from migraines not increased
The overall mortality rate for people with migraines is no higher than in the general population, reports Professor Dr. Hans-Christoph Diener from the German Society for Neurology (DGN). But doctors who treat migraine sufferers should, in his view, be aware of the increased risk of vascular diseases. Women with frequent migraines with aura in particular should be examined for risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and then treated proactively, according to Prof. Dr. Servant further.
Migraine is one of the most common neurological diseases
About a fifth of all women and eight percent of men are affected by migraines, according to the German Society for Neurology. This makes migraines the most common neurological disease in Germany. This is characterized by violent, often one-sided headaches, which can be accompanied by loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting as well as other aura symptoms. A large number of medicines are available for the treatment and prevention of migraine attacks, but a representative survey by the DMKG has shown that a significant proportion of migraine sufferers are not or only insufficiently treated.
Evidence of association with vascular diseases
In clinical science, the question of whether people with migraines are more frequently affected by cerebro- and cardiovascular events than other people has recently arisen, reports the German Society for Neurology. In the past few years, several studies on selected population groups have already shown signs in this direction. Now these have been confirmed by two large studies. "The largest meta-analysis published to date on the relationship between cerebro- and cardiovascular diseases with migraines is based on the data from 16 studies," said Dr. Charly Gaul.
Stroke risk increased by 42 percent
In total, almost 400,000 migraine patients and approx. 750,000 unaffected people were considered as a control group in the study by the US scientists. It had been shown that the risk of migraine patients was increased by 42 percent in relation to all vascular events. In relation to a stroke, the risk was increased by 41 percent and for heart attacks by 23 percent, the German Society for Neurology reports of the study results.
Mortality from migraines with aura increases
The US study also showed that the risk is unevenly distributed among different types of migraines. Thus, a third of the patients who experience an aura during their seizures (e.g. visual disturbances, numbness in the limbs) have a 56 percent higher risk of stroke. The overall mortality of these patients was increased by 20 percent, while the mortality in the whole group was not higher than in the control group, reports the German Society for Neurology. The study from Denmark came to similar results, in which the data of more than 50,000 patients over a period of up to 19 years were compared with that of 500,000 controls, the specialist society reports.
Women at risk of frequent migraine attacks and aura symptoms
Although the results of the study should not in themselves be a cause for alarm for migraine sufferers, according to the experts, a group of sufferers requires special attention. "Women with frequent migraine attacks with aura should be asked about their vascular risk factors and these should then be treated consistently"; emphasizes Prof. Diener. Smoking and oral hormonal contraception (birth control pills) are also of particular importance here. The other migraine patients should not be “scared of the increased risk, because the absolute number of events is relatively small,” continues Prof. Diener.
According to the experts, it remains unclear to what extent effective treatment of migraines can also reduce the risk of vascular events. "To prove this, studies with an observation period of more than ten years would have to be carried out," emphasizes Dr. Gaul. (fp)