Shocking scans show how debilitating migraines really affect your brain

SHOCKING scans have revealed an important clue that could help solve the ongoing mystery of why certain people experience debilitating migraines.

MRI images show that people suffering from the painful condition have enlarged fluid-filled spaces around blood vessels in central regions of the brain.

The arrow in Figure A indicates microbleeds in the brain - these are the dark lesions on the left temporal lobe in a migraine patient with an aura.  The arrow in image B shows how the corital vessels are more prominent on the left - this is what helps with the brain's drainage system

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The arrow in Figure A indicates microbleeds in the brain – these are the dark lesions on the left temporal lobe in a migraine patient with an aura. The arrow in image B shows how the corital vessels are more prominent on the left – this is what helps with the brain’s drainage systemCredit: RADIO SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA
The image on the left shows a brain with migraines, with the arrows pointing to where the hypertension is.  The image on the left is a brain without a migraine

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The image on the left shows a brain with migraines, with the arrows pointing to where the hypertension is. The image on the left is a brain without a migraineCredit: RADIO SOCIETY OF NORTH AMERICA

American researchers think this could suggest that these people have problems flushing waste from the brain and nervous system.

Migraines are usually characterized by a moderate or severe headache that is felt as a throbbing pain on one side of the head.

Around 10 million people aged 15-69 in the UK suffer from the condition, costing the NHS around £400 million each year, estimates suggest.

The cost to the wider economy is even higher, with around £4.4 billion a year lost from three million migraine-related sick days, according to NHS England.

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Wilson Xu from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, USA said: “In people with chronic migraine and episodic migraine without aura, there are significant changes in the perivascular spaces of a brain region called the center semioval.

“These changes have never been reported before.”

While the nature of the link between overly large perivascular spaces and migraines is unclear, the results suggest that a migraine is associated with a problem with the brain’s ducts, the researchers explained.

This is because the brain’s waste disposal process, known as the glymphatic system, uses perivascular channels for transport.

What are typical symptoms of migraine?

Migraines can ruin your day with intense pain and make you hide in a dark room until they pass. Here are some of the most common symptoms

  • Throbbing, pulsating pain
  • Light sensitivity
  • Sound sensitivity
  • Nausea
  • Pain on one side
  • Vision changes, blurred vision
  • Aura
  • vomit

Source: NHS England

“The results of our study may help inspire future, larger-scale studies to further investigate how changes in the brain’s microscopic vessels and blood supply contribute to different types of migraine,” said Prof. Wilson.

“Ultimately, this could help us develop new, personalized ways to diagnose and treat migraines.”

The latest study looked at the brains of 25 people between the ages of 25 and 60.

All were healthy and had no cognitive impairment or mental illness.

Some had frequent migraines, others reported occasional migraines, and still others reported no symptoms at all.

All participants underwent a high-resolution brain scan known as a 7T scan, which produces higher-resolution images than an MRI.

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The results showed that migraineurs had significantly more enlarged perivascular spaces than those who never experienced the condition.

The results of the study will be presented next week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago, USA.

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