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Migraine is not an uncommon word that you hear these days. You hear it in your social circle, in school and sometimes unfortunately during happy occasions and celebrations. Migraines are not gentle on the person. They are forced to retreat from whatever they were doing to a dark room in the desperate attempt to find some relief. About 37 million people suffer from migraines in the US. Statistics indicate that women are more likely to suffer from migraines and chronic migraine attacks can happen about 15 days in a month! Read more about what triggers a migraine here.

Higher sodium concentration in CSF – A sign of migraine

The Radiological Society of North America recently made a revelation that those who suffer from migraines tend to have significantly higher concentrations of sodium in their cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This was the first ever study to use a technique called sodium MRI to take a closer look at the brains of migraine patients. 

Migraines affect about 18 % of women and 6 %of men. Though a headache is the primary symptom of migraine, the severity of it varies. Some people get to the point of vomiting when a headache becomes unbearable. There are others who experience vision problems as well. The initial diagnosis of migraines is quite a challenge.  This is because headaches are a part and parcel of various diseases. For example, a headache can be a sign of a serious neurological disorder or even a minor side effect of some medication. So to pinpoint, that a migraine is the reason for someone's headache is certainly not an easy task. Read more about the natural remedies for a migraine here

This newly discovered magnetic resonance imaging technique called cerebral sodium MRI could be a trustworthy method to diagnose migraines. A lot of research has revealed that sodium plays a crucial role in brain chemistry. Since sodium can be visualized easily using an MRI, this finding could indeed be helpful in diagnosing migraines earlier.

The researchers in the study compared the results of the cerebral sodium MRI's of people suffering from migraines as well as healthy people. There was not much difference in the sodium concentrations in the gray and white matter, brain stem or even the cerebellum. However, there were significant differences in the sodium concentrations in the cerebrospinal fluid. To be more specific, the sodium concentrations were significantly higher in the brain's cerebrospinal fluid in migraine patients than in those who were healthy. For those who do not know what the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is, CSF is the fluid that surrounds the brain and is responsible for cushioning the brain as well as maintaining the proper chemical composition in the brain. This technique could be a life-saver for those that can afford this procedure. This will not only help diagnose migraines faster but can also help bring relief earlier too. 

Migraine attacks - No need to suffer in the dark anymore

For long, all that was prescribed to treat migraines were painkillers and to lie down in a dark room until it passes. You don’t have to suffer in the dark anymore. With advances in medicine, there have been a lot of improvements in identifying possible migraine solutions. WHO lists a migraine as the third most prevalent illness in the world! Given how widespread it is, it is indeed shocking that migraines are still widely misunderstood and more often than not wrongly diagnosed.  

Some lesser known facts about a migraine

  • A migraine is not just a bad headache, it is a complex neurological disorder that is genetic in nature.
  • Heredity is a strong factor for migraines. There is a 50% chance of getting migraines if one of the parents suffered from it. If both parents have a history of migraines, then there is a 75 % chance of inheriting it. In such people it was found that their brain was abnormally sensitive to some specific stimuli like changes in lighting or sound or even temperature. This over-sensitivity triggered migraines.
  • What causes a migraine headache is the increased blood flow when the brain is irritated.
  • Not all migraine attacks have the same symptoms. In fact, you can’t put them all in one box. For some, there could be nausea, pain. For others, it could be preceded by visual disturbances called an aura.
  • There are a host of migraine -triggers that have been identified. Even estrogen hormone fluctuations have been known to cause migraines. 
  • Poor lifestyle choices like smoking, binge-eating, drinking alcohol and poor food choices like eating foods high in preservatives and artificial sweeteners are also factors that set off migraines.
  • Sometimes you can do everything right and still have migraines. You can eat right, stay fit and healthy and still get these dreaded headaches. For this, you don’t have much choice as it is in the genes. 
  • Most medicines that are prescribed to prevent migraines are not developed specifically to treat migraines. These medicines include blood pressure pills, anti-seizure medicines and some are even antidepressants. Even Botox has been used to prevent migraines for those who have more than 15 episodes in a month. 

Weight does influence migraines

Researchers have found that migraines do, in fact, have a lot to do with body weight. Being overweight or being underweight, both puts you at an increased risk for migraines. The researchers looked into all available studies that linked body mass index (BMI) and migraine. They found that being on heavier or lighter side of the scale was, in fact, a risk factor for migraines. Researchers found that obese people were 27 % more likely to experience migraines and those who were underweight were 13 % more likely to get migraines than people with normal BMI. Researchers believe that it is not just the fat levels in the body, but also factors like physical activity, medications and even food habits that can affect migraines.

Hormone therapy and migraines

The effect of hormone therapy on migraines has been known to cause cardiovascular disease. This is why hormone therapy is not prescribed for migraine sufferers. Using estrogen to treat migraines was found to have an increased risk of stroke in women. Hormone therapy use has been on the decline because of this revelation. However, new research suggests that it is safe to use hormone therapy in women who are younger than 60 years, that is, those who are closer to menopause. 

An interesting revelation was that women who suffered from migraines were found to exercise less than those without migraines and they also had a higher intake of vitamin D and calcium. These women were also found to complain from night sweats and hot flashes. The researchers at The North American Menopause Society could not detect a significant risk of cardiovascular disease events in those who had migraines. 

It has been known that fluctuations in estrogen levels could cause migraines in many women. Now that it has been found that there is no relation between hormone therapy and increased cardiovascular risk, hormone therapy is beneficial for women suffering from migraines but who have not yet attained menopause. More research is however needed in the case of women who are undergoing menopause to make sure that they do not have any other risks involved.