Shocking scans have revealed an important clue that could help solve the ongoing mystery of why certain people suffer from debilitating migraines.
A migraine is usually characterized by a moderate or severe headache, felt as a throbbing pain on one side of the head.
Common symptoms include severe pain, nausea, fatigue, and cognitive dysfunction.
Around 4.9 million people in Australia suffer from migraines. Of those, 71 percent are women and 86 percent are of working age — while 7.6 percent are chronic sufferers, experiencing pain for at least 15 days a month, according to a 2018 report.
The cost to the overall economy in Australia is around US$35.7 billion. This is made up of $14.3 billion in healthcare system costs, $16.3 billion in productivity costs, and $5.1 billion in other costs.
To this day, the exact cause of migraines has remained a “mystery,” and experts are desperate to shed light on the debilitating condition that affects at least 15 percent of the world’s population.
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But now a new study has made a discovery it hopes can help these people. MRI scans of people suffering from the painful condition have shown they have enlarged, fluid-filled spaces surrounding blood vessels in central regions of the brain.
US researchers believe this may indicate that sufferers have trouble flushing waste from the brain and nervous system. The sun reports.
Wilson Xu, a graduate student at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles and co-author of the study, tells United States today: “When you see this kind of relationship between increased amounts of [perivascular spaces] In a certain region of white matter in the brain, we think there might be some sort of connection between migraines and this waste-clearing system.”
Mr Xu said the researchers are “unsure of the exact relationship between migraines and perivascular spaces,” but it could affect blood flow in the brain or have other implications.
“We think that a migraine could be causing these changes, and these changes could lead to some of the symptoms and things that we experience when we have a migraine,” he said.
“These changes have never been reported before.”
Although the nature of the link between oversized perivascular spaces and migraines is unclear, the findings suggest that migraines are associated with a problem with the brain’s wiring, the researchers said.
This is because the brain’s waste-emptying process, known as the glymphatic system, uses perivascular channels for transport.
“The results of our study could help stimulate future, larger studies to further investigate how changes in the microscopic vessels and blood supply to the brain contribute to different types of migraine,” said Mr. Xu.
“Ultimately, this could help us develop new, personalized ways to diagnose and treat migraines.”
The results of the study, which looked at the brains of 25 people between the ages of 25 and 60, will be presented in full next week at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago, USA.
The participants were healthy and had no cognitive impairment or mental illness.
Some had frequent migraines, others reported occasional migraines, and others reported no symptoms at all.
All participants underwent a high-resolution brain scan known as a 7T scan, which provides higher-resolution images than an MRI.
Originally published as Shocking, scans show how debilitating migraines affect the brain