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Migraines cause death? Do frequent Migraines place me at a high morality risk?


Migraines cause death? Do frequent Migraines place me at a high morality risk?

Question: Migraines cause death? Do frequent Migraines place me at a high morality risk?


Full Question:

In this morning's local paper I read a frightening story. A lady from this area suffered from migraine headaches. She went to the Mayo Clinic to seek help. While there, she died. The cause of death, according to her obituary: migraine headaches. I have never heard of migraines being a cause of death. How can this happen? How often does this occur? What can be done? This is scary stuff! Discussion of pain relief and medications and triggers . . . that’s one thing. But to recognize these headaches can be fatal is very sobering. I suffer from a form of migraine: chronic daily headaches. I have been to the Mayo Clinic and as a result I take a lot of pills. I still get a lot of headaches. Does this place me at a high mortality risk? Should I rush out and buy more life insurance? Bob.


Dear Bob;

It doesn't happen often enough to be anything to make you run out and buy more life insurance, but yes, Migraine can kill. This is why we advise that Migraineurs call their doctors if they experience symptoms different from their typical Migraine and seek immediate care if they're experiencing "the worst headache of their life." Another time to seek emergency care is if the pain of a Migraine attack lasts more than 72 hours without at least a solid four-hour pain-free period. The pain of a Migraine attack is caused by dilated blood vessels in the brain and inflammation in the surrounding tissues. Extended dilation of those blood vessels increases stroke risk. Most often, Migraine-related deaths are from strokes.

Another reason to contact your doctor because of differing symptoms or the worst ever headache is to be sure it IS Migraine. You need to be sure there isn't something else occurring.

Studies have shown that Migraine disease increases stroke risk, but again, it's not something to panic or obsess about; it's something to be aware of and is another good reason for effective Migraine treatment. The best recommendations are:

  1. Keep working with your doctor to find an effective preventive regimen to reduce the number and severity of your Migraines.
  2. Sit down with your doctor and discuss overall stroke risk factors. There are many lifestyle issues that can be addressed to reduce stroke -- nutrition, exercise, not smoking, etc. Address stroke prevention in your overall health regimen, not just your Migraine care.
  3. If you work with a doctor for a long period of time without making progress, and your regimen isn't being changed, consider consulting a new Migraine specialist. There's a link below to our directory of recommended specialists.

Here's some information to help you learn about stroke and Migraine. After you read it, you might want to stop by our forums and discuss it. There's a link below to the forums.

  • Migraine and Stroke Risk: The Study Results
    Researchers correlated the results of 14 studies on Migraine and stroke, concluding that the risk of stroke is doubled in Migraineurs and multiplied by eight when Migraineurs take the pill.
  • Head Pain: NOT To Be Ignored!
    "Better safe than sorry," could never be more true. More people died from Migrainous Stroke last year than were murdered by handguns. Don't take chances!

Good luck,
Teri Robert John Claude Krusz

To visit our directory of recommended specialists and clinics, click HERE.

To visit our forums for an exchange of information and support, click HERE.

Published December 5, 2005

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