Migraine affecting vision is tied to stroke risk

February 04, 2005|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

Women with migraines that cause vision changes are more likely to suffer a stroke than those without a history of the severe headaches, researchers reported yesterday.

Scientists at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta found that women whose migraines were accompanied by vision loss had a 70 percent greater risk of stroke than women who don't get migraines. Women who saw lines or spots shortly before or during their migraines had a 25 percent increased risk.

Dr. Steven Kittner, a neurology professor at Maryland and study co-author, emphasized that the incidence of stroke in young women - about one in 5,000 every year - is low.

At the same time, Kittner said, women who experience migraines with visual symptoms - which are called "auras" - should try to minimize other risk factors for stroke, including smoking, obesity and use of oral contraceptives.

Migraines are the most common form of severe headache; about 17 percent of women have them, according to the CDC. Of those women who suffer migraines, about a third have them with auras.

The study, presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference in New Orleans, included 963 women, ages 15 to 49, more than half of whom had suffered strokes. The work was part of the University of Maryland's Stroke Prevention in Young Women Study, which involves women treated at more than 50 hospitals in the Baltimore-Washington region.

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