Migraines Linked With Abnormal Blood Vessel Structure In The Brain

People who get migraines may have differences in blood vessel structure in their brains, according to a small new study.

"These differences seem to be associated with changes in blood flow in the brain, and it's possible that these changes may trigger migraine, which may explain why some people, for instance, notice that dehydration triggers their headaches," study researcher Dr. Brett Cucchiara, M.D., associate professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, explained in a statement.

The new study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, included 170 people who fit into one of three categories: those who didn't get any migraines, those who got them with aura, and those who got them without aura. Researchers looked at the structure of blood vessels in the study participants' brains, as well as changes in cerebral blood flow. They specifically looked at the "circle of Willis," which is the term used for a system of arteries responsible for delivering blood to the brain.

The researchers found that people with migraines were more likely to have an "incomplete" circle of Willis than those who didn't get migraine headaches. Specifically, 73 percent of those who get migraines with aura had an incomplete circle of Willis, and 67 percent of those who get migraines without aura had an incomplete circle of Willis. Meanwhile, 51 percent of those who didn't get migraines had an incomplete circle of Willis.

"Abnormalities in both the circle of Willis and blood flow were most prominent in the back of the brain, where the visual cortex is located. This may help explain why the most common migraine auras consist of visual symptoms such as seeing distortions, spots, or wavy lines," senior author of the study, Dr. John Detre, M.D., a professor of neurology and radiology at the university, said in a statement.

Several recent studies have shed more light on how our physical makeup, as well as our genetics, could play a role in migraines. A study published in the journal Nature Genetics identified new genetic regions linked with the onset of migraines and susceptibility to migraines. And another study, published in the journal Lancet Neurology, showed that migraine pain may be caused by brain cells having overactive pain signal-firing, MyHealthNewsDaily reported.

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