(HealthDay News) – Migraine headaches are associated with an increased incidence of deep white matter hyperintensities on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), according to research published in the Nov. 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

To examine the incidence of brain lesions nine years after initial MRI, Inge H. Palm-Meinders, MD, from the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and colleagues analyzed data from participants in a follow-up of the 2000 Cerebral Abnormalities in Migraine, an Epidemiological Risk Analysis cohort. Progression of MRI-measured brain lesions was assessed by MRI scan in 2009 for 203 of the baseline participants with migraine and 83 controls.

The researchers found that 112 of the 145 women in the migraine group (77%) had progression of deep white matter hyperintensities, compared to 33 of 55 women (60%) in the control group (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 2.1; P=0.04). Migraine was not significantly associated with progression of infratentorial hyperintensities (aOR, 7.7; P=0.05) or new posterior circulation territory infarct-like lesions (P=0.07). The number or frequency of migraine headaches was not associated with progression of lesions. Deep white matter hyperintensity load (high vs. non-high) was not significantly associated with change in cognitive scores.

“These findings raise questions about the role of migraine headaches with progression of cerebral vascular changes,” the authors write. “The functional implications of MRI brain lesions in women with migraine and their possible relation with ischemia and ischemic stroke warrant further research.”

Two authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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