Women With Migraine Headaches At Higher Risk For Developing Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

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A recent article published by Reuters Health indicates that there might be a positive correlation between migraine headaches and the incidence of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in women.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease in which the nerves of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) degenerate. Myelin, which provides a covering or insulation for nerves, improves the conduction of impulses along the nerves and also is important for maintaining the health of the nerves. In multiple sclerosis, inflammation causes the myelin to eventually disappear. Consequently, the electrical impulses that travel along the nerves decelerate, that is, become slower. In addition, the nerves themselves are damaged. As more and more nerves are affected, a patient experiences a progressive interference with functions that are controlled by the nervous system such as vision, speech, walking, writing, and memory.

The study involved 116,000 participants who were examined over the course of 16 years. Researchers found that women diagnosed with migraine headaches at the beginning of the study were 47 % more likely to develop MS than women who did not suffer from migraines.

Although the research seems to indicate a correlation between migraines and MS, it remains unclear whether migraines contribute to the development of MS. Dr. Illya Kister, the research investigator noted:

Over 99% of migraineurs will not develop MS, since MS is a rare disease, while migraines are quite common; about one in 5 women in the U.S. will have a migraine over the course of a year.

Researchers called for closer scrutiny of the relationship between migraines and MS.  It is worth noting that,  despite extensive research,  the causes of MS are not well-understood.  In this regard, further research of migraines in MS patients could be illuminating.

Contributing Author: Jon Stefanuca

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