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(PLANO, TEXAS May 4, 2011) Migraines are a painful problem that impact as much as 12 percent of the general population. They occur more frequently in women than in men with 17 percent of women experiencing migraines and only 6 percent of men experiencing migraines each year. But new evidence suggests that some of those with migraines may be at increased risk of stroke.
“There has been increasing evidence recently regarding an association between a specific type of migraine headache and ischemic strokes, which are strokes that are caused by blockages of blood vessels that supply nutrients to the brain,” says Neelay Gandhi, M.D., family medicine physician on the Baylor Plano medical staff. The studies seem to indicate that women with migraines that are associated with an aura have increased risk of an ischemic stroke, and the risk increases for those under 45 years, those who smoke, and those that use oral contraceptives. “However,” says Dr. Gandhi, “the absolute risk is still a small increase.” An aura begins before the actual headache and involves symptoms such as flashing lights, bright spots, zigzag lines, numbness or tingling in the hands or fingers and change in vision.
Dr. Gandhi says that the reason for this association remains unclear, but there are various theories that have been proposed, including spasms of brain blood vessels, clotting abnormalities, blood vessel wall abnormalities, genetic mutations, and irregular heart beat associated with nerve dysfunction. Other studies have shown brain lesions, specifically in the cerebellum, nerve fibers, and brain white matter on brain MRI studies done in patients that have migraine headaches with auras. But Dr. Gandhi cautions that “none of the studies have shown a strong enough correlation to confirm or rule out these associations.” Migraine headaches with auras are also associated with other possible risk factors for stroke, such as a tear within the wall of a blood vessel, lupus, and clotting disorder, but it is unclear how this association plays a direct role in causing ischemic strokes.
“The ischemic stroke risk was not elevated in men and not elevated in migraines without auras, according to the same studies,” says Dr. Gandhi. Additionally, the studies have not consistently shown an increased risk for heart attacks in those with migraine headaches, but some studies have shown an increased risk for heart attacks in those with migraine with auras.
For a referral to a physician on the Baylor Plano medical staff, call 1.800.4BAYLOR or visit www.BaylorHealth.com/Plano.
Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano is a 112-bed acute care hospital committed to serving North Texas residents with personalized care and advanced technology on a beautiful campus with hotel-like amenities and all private rooms. Services at the not-for-profit, fully-accredited facility include treatment for advanced spine deformities at the Baylor Scoliosis Center, neurosciences, orthopaedics, medical and radiation oncology, surgical weight loss, women’s services, gynecology, urology, gastroenterology, pulmonary medicine, sleep disorders, pain management, diabetes management and more. Patients have access to digital imaging onsite at Baylor Plano and at the Baylor Diagnostic Imaging Center at Craig Ranch, an outpatient department of Baylor Plano. The hospital is the first in North Dallas and Collin County to offer minimally invasive robotic surgery for procedures through the FDA-approved da Vinci® S Surgical System. Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano ranks six on U.S. News & World Report's first-ever Best Hospitals metro area ranking for the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Baylor Plano is also a 2010 recipient of the Texas Award for Performance Excellence and houses an Accredited Community Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Program by the American College of Surgeons Commissions on Cancer. Baylor Plano is the only hospital in Collin County and one of six in Texas to be accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers. Jerri Garison is president of Baylor Plano. For more information, or a physician referral, call toll free 1-800-4-BAYLOR or log onto www.BaylorHealth.com/Plano.
About Baylor Health Care System
Baylor Health Care System is a faith-based supporting organization providing services to a network of acute care hospitals and related health care entities that provide patient care, medical education, research and community service. Baylor recorded more than 2.6 million patient encounters, $3.8 billion in total operating revenue, $4.4 billion in total assets and $513.5 million in community benefit in fiscal year 2010. Baylor’s network of more than 260 access points includes 26 owned/operated/ ventured/affiliated hospitals, 23 joint ventured ambulatory surgical centers, 50 satellite outpatient locations, four senior centers and 156 HealthTexas physician clinics.
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