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Finding Migraine Relief

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11 Ways Migraines Are Dangerous for Your Health

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Cindy Kuzma on July 24, 2021

The health effects of chronic migraines can linger well beyond the few hours or days of a single migraine headache. If you have frequent migraines, work with your doctor on a plan to control your pain and prevent these additional medical problems.

  • Young woman sitting on the couch with stomach upset
    1. Your Bowels May Malfunction
    Migraines and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) often go hand in hand. Doctors believe the same changes to the nervous system trigger headaches and problems with digestion. People with IBS often alternate between diarrhea and constipation, and they may also feel bloated or like they always need to go to the bathroom.
  • woman clutching back in pain during outdoor exercise routine
    2. Your Back Can Ache
    Frequent low back pain strikes somewhere between 13 to 18 times as many people with chronic migraine as those without headaches. With time, pain creates a well-worn path through your nerves and brain, actually changing the structure of your gray matter. As a result, you’re more likely to hurt throughout your body.
  • doctor view of brain ct scan result
    3. You Could Have a Stroke
    Strokes occur when blood flow to your brain stops. Migraines double your risk for stroke. The risk appears highest if your migraines are accompanied by aura—visual disturbances such as flashing lights or zig-zag patterns before a headache begins.
  • Woman with pills
    4. You Risk Even More Headaches
    Chronic migraines may have you frequently reaching for the medicine cabinet. But if you take pain-relieving drugs more than two or three times a week, you could develop rebound headaches. These occur when your medication wears off more quickly each time and the pain returns stronger than before.
  • male with vision problems
    5. Your Vision Shifts
    Some types of migraines result in brief periods of vision loss or changes. Other, less common types cause your eyelids to droop and your pupils to enlarge. They’re accompanied by double vision that may last for weeks after the pain in your head subsides.
  • Young woman sleeping
    6. Your Sleep May Suffer
    Pain from a migraine may make it difficult for you to fall or stay asleep. In addition, chronic migraines have been linked to changes in the way your body transitions between stages of slumber, interrupting your rest. Poor sleep can, in turn, worsen head pain.
  • Examining ear with otoscope
    7. You Might Lose Your Hearing
    It’s rare but terrifying: Sudden sensorineural hearing loss causes rapid hearing loss over a 72-hour period. This condition appears about twice as frequently in people with chronic migraines. Doctors aren’t sure why, but they suspect damage to tiny blood vessels in the ear may link the two conditions.
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  • first-aid-on-floor
    8. You Could Have Seizures
    Similar patterns occur in chronic migraines and the seizure disorder epilepsy: Rapidly firing neurons induce sudden attacks of symptoms, followed by periods in which you’re symptom-free. Migraines can trigger seizures in people with epilepsy. And people with both conditions often don’t respond to anti-seizure medications.
  • woman icing shoulder
    9. You Risk Developing Other Types of Chronic Pain
    In one study, one-third of chronic migraine patients had fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by widespread pain, fatigue, and depression. That’s significantly more than the 4% reported in the general population. Any type of chronic pain rewires the way the brain processes pain signals. The constant throbbing of headaches may overexcite your entire body’s pain responses, predisposing you to more extensive aching.
  • Acoustic stethoscope and blood pressure gauge on an electrocardiogram printout
    10. Your Blood Pressure May Rise
    Women with migraines appear more likely to develop high blood pressure during pregnancy, and some studies have linked hypertension to chronic migraines in all adults. Malfunctions in your autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary motions such as your blood pressure and heart rate, may underlie both conditions.
  • concerned woman sitting in chair
    11. Your Mood May Sink
    Depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder all affect more people with migraines than those without. In part, they result from fearing when the next attack will strike. But scientists increasingly suspect common brain pathways link chronic migraines with psychological conditions.
11 Ways Migraines Are Dangerous for Your Health
  1. Ohara, T, et al.  Another Case of Lower Back Pain Associated With Migraine: The Importance of Specific Questions. Journal of Child Neurology. May 2013;(28)5:680.
  2. Ligthart, L, et al. Anxiety and Depression Are Associated With Migraine and Pain in General: An Investigation of the Interrelationships. The Journal of Pain. April 2013;(14)4:363-70.
  3. Yoon, M, et al. Chronic migraine and chronic tension-type headache are associated with concomitant low back pain: Results of the German Headache Consortium study. Pain. March 2013;(154)3:484-92.
  4. Increased Risk of Hemorrhagic Stroke in Patients with Migraine: A Population-Based Cohort Study.
  5. Sachdev, A; Marmura, MJ. Metabolic syndrome and migraine. Frontiers in Neurology. 2012;3(161).
  6. Kurth, T. and Diener, H, et al. Migraine and Stroke: Perspectives for Stroke Physicians. Stroke. Dec. 2012; 43(12):3421-6.
  7. Chu, C, et al. Migraine is a risk factor for sudden sensorineural hearing loss: A nationwide population-based study. Cephalalgia. Jan. 2013;33(2):80-6.
  8. Rodriguez-Sainz, A, et al. Migraine, Stroke and Epilepsy: Underlying and Interrelated Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment. Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine. Feb. 17, 2013, online ahead of print.
  9. Semiz , M, et al. Prevalence of migraine and co-morbid psychiatric disorders among students of Cumhuriyet University.  Journal of Headache & Pain. April 11, 2013;14(1):34. 
  10. Cady, RK, et al. The Bowel and Migraine: Update on Celiac Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Current Pain and Headache Reports. June 2012;(16)3:278-86.
  11. Küçüksen, S, et al. The prevalence of fibromyalgia and its relation with headache characteristics in episodic migraine. Clinical Rheumatology. Feb. 27, 2013; online ahead of print.
  12. Migraine fact sheet. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health, 2011.
  13. Migraine and Common Morbidities. American Headache Society, 2011.
  14. What Is a Stroke? National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, Feb. 1, 2011.
  15. Headache: Hope Through Research. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, April 23, 2013.
  16. Migraine Information Page. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Feb. 11, 2013.

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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 24
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