Some Migraines Tied to Artery Tears in Neck

MONDAY, March 6, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Some younger adults who suffer migraines may be at risk for tears in their neck arteries, which can increase the chances of a stroke, a new study suggests.

Exactly what triggers these vessel tears is not clear, the researchers added.

However, study author Dr. Alessandro Pezzini stressed that the probability that migraine sufferers would develop this condition — called arterial dissection — is still quite low.

“Overall, migraine is a benign condition in the great majority of affected individuals,” said Pezzini, a professor of neurology at the Universita degli Studi di Brescia in Italy.

Of the nearly 2,500 stroke patients studied, aged 18 to 45, only 13 percent had strokes related to neck artery tears. This group was more likely to have high cholesterol, diabetes or be current smokers.

When the researchers looked closer at the pattern of migraines linked with vessel tears and stroke, they found that migraine without aura was more closely linked to the blood vessel abnormalities.

Aura describes sensory changes — such as flashes of light, other vision disturbances or tingling of hands or face — that can occur before or during a migraine.

Compared to patients who had migraine with aura, those who had migraine without aura were 1.7 times more likely to have the artery tears. The findings showed that artery tears and strokes were also more likely to occur in men and in patients aged 39 and younger.

The study did have limitations, the researchers said. The investigators did not have information on how frequent or severe the migraines were, or how often the auras occurred.

And the study was observational, so “we cannot say anything about the existence of a cause-and-effect relationship between migraine and arterial dissection,” Pezzini said.

Nor can the researchers explain the link, but they can speculate. The two disorders may have a common genetic basis, Pezzini said. Or an underlying abnormality may predispose a person to both the blood vessel problem and the stroke.

The findings were published online March 6 in the journal JAMA Neurology.

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