For many years, physicians and researchers have grappled with this question. It’s a good question, really –Migraine headaches are a phenomenon of severe recurrent pain often with some kind of neurologic symptoms; but are they harmless? Are the headaches the result of some kind of ongoing progressive problem? Or, do they leave behind some damage in their wake?
Studies in the last few years have started to shed some light on this question.
As we mentioned before, there are two main categories of migraines: those with aura, and those without aura. Aura, as we have discussed before, is the presence of neurologic symptoms, most often visual disturbance, that accompany a migraine. While migraines without aura, do not appear to have evidence of brain injury, migraines with aura do. Not only does migraine with aura serve as an independent risk factor for stroke, but even in the absence of stroke it may leave behind ‘silent’ lesions. By silent, the spots do not have any symptoms.
Additional studies have shed more light on this.
The frequency of migraine attacks and the length of history of migraine are indicators for these silent spots. The frequency and duration also have an influence on brain structure – in some people with migraine headaches, certain areas of the brain appear larger and other areas appear smaller.
While we do not yet know the significance of these silent spots, it suggests that migraine headaches may cause some progressive damage over time.
If these attacks go on over time, it would suggest that decreasing or eliminating the migraines would help stop this damage from accumulating. If having severe pain is not enough of a reason to prevent headaches, than hopefully preventing damage will be!