WEDNESDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- As if the debilitating
headaches weren't bad enough, women who get migraines or have had
them in the past are at increased risk for depression, a new study
Migraines are intense, throbbing headaches often accompanied by
nausea and sensitivity to light or sound. They are three times more
common in women than in men.
The study, by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in
Boston, suggests that women with any history of migraines were
about 40 percent more likely to develop depression than women
without a similar history.
"We believe the most important aspect of our study is that migraine patients and their physicians should keep this potential link in mind," said senior study author Dr. Tobias Kurth, a neuroepidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Kurth noted that doctors who treat patients who have migraines
might consider asking some specific questions about depression.
The researchers analyzed data from more than 36,000 participants
in the U.S. Women's Health Study who did not have depression and
had answered questions about their migraine history. The women,
aged 45 or older, were categorized either as having active migraine
with aura (visual disturbances such as flashing lights or temporary
loss of vision); active migraine without aura; prior history of
migraine; or no history of migraine. The women also provided
information about any depression diagnoses during the study's
Kurth and his colleagues found that more than 6,400 of the women
had current or past migraines, and that during an average 14 years
of follow-up, nearly 4,000 developed depression.
Women with any history of migraines were 36 percent more likely
to develop depression than women with no history of the headaches,
and there was no difference between migraines with aura and
migraines without aura. The researchers also found that women with
only a past history of migraine had 1.41 times the risk of
Although the results suggest a link between migraines and
depression, they do not show cause and effect.
Kurth said further research is necessary to determine why
migraines might increase the risk of depression. "There is not
really an easy answer," he said, adding that future studies might
look at whether there is a specific common biological mechanism
linking both diseases.
Dr. Richard Lipton, vice chair of neurology at Albert Einstein
College of Medicine and director of the Montefiore Headache Center
in New York City, applauded the research.
"This is a very strong study because of the cohort design, the large sample and the long-term follow-up," he said.
Lipton noted several study limitations, however. The results
don't apply to men or to younger women, he said, and it is possible
the number of women with depression was even greater, since the
diagnosis was based on self-reporting.
The study is scheduled for presentation at the American Academy
of Neurology annual meeting in New Orleans in April. Funding was
provided by the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and
the National Cancer Institute.
Research presented at medical meetings should be considered
preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
To learn more about migraines, visit the
National Headache Foundation.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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