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Migraines Linked To Blood Clots

Fatal Situation

A study published in the September 16, 2008 issue of the American Academy of Neurology's medical journal, Neurology, states that migraine patients may be at a higher risk for developing blood clots in their veins. This is a life threatening situation since the clots sometimes move away from the vein, traveling upward to the heart or to the lungs, which can be a fatal situation. 

Blood clots which form in the veins go by the medical term venous thrombosis, and sometimes thromboembolism. In this dire situation, blood clots develop inside the vein. The clots, in turn, impede the flow of blood through the veins, leading to swelling and great pain. This is bad enough, but if the clots decide to travel, the patient's life will be in serious danger.

Ultrasound Examinations

In this recent study, 574 Italian participants aged 55 and older were interviewed in an effort to spot patients who had a previous history for migraine headaches, or who were suffering a migraine at the time of the intake evaluation. The medical records of these participants were then analyzed to see if there was any history of blood clots.  Ultrasound examinations were administered to the patients' neck and thigh arteries for signs of atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries.

Among the subjects in the study, 111 participants were found to have migraine headaches. Out of this number of migraine sufferers, 21 were found to have had at least one episode of venous thrombosis, which comes to a total of 19 percent. In contrast to this figure, there were 35 subjects in the non-migraine group, who were found to have blood clots, which represents a figure of 8 percent.

Surprising Finding

The researchers who carried out the study have no idea what the link might be between migraine and venous thrombosis. All they have is theories, one of which is that the blood of migraine sufferers may have a greater tendency to clot. One surprising finding in this study runs counter to current consensus: those people who suffer from migraines do not have a higher risk for hardening or narrowing of the arteries.

The study's author, Stefan Kiechl, MD, of the Austrian Innsbruck Medical University says, "The thinking has been that because people with migraine are more likely to have strokes and other cardiovascular problems, that they would also have more severe and early atherosclerosis. This study is the first to use high-resolution ultrasound to examine this theory, and it provides solid evidence to refute it."