Migraine is a risk factor for sustaining traumatic brain injury

Man with Hands on Face from Migraine

Every year, an estimated 10 million people worldwide suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI is known to cause long-term disability, reduced quality of life, and other negative outcomes among individuals who survive their injuries. For example, many people report experiencing migraines in the weeks and months following TBI, which can cause other symptoms such as light sensitivity, vomiting or nausea, and visual impairment. Researchers suspect that the impairment associated with these symptoms may in turn make individuals more vulnerable to head injuries.

A group of researchers in Taiwan wanted to determine if migraine is a risk factor for TBI. To do so, they used Taiwan’s National Health Insurance Research Database to identify 7,267 patients who received a migraine diagnosis between 1996 and 2010. The researchers analyzed then these patients’ hospital records for TBI incidents and other health factors, finding that:

  • Patients who were diagnosed with migraine were nearly twice as likely to experience TBI as patients who did not suffer from migraines.
  • Among people with migraines, women and people of higher income were less likely to suffer a TBI.
  • Alcohol-related disease, mental disorders, and diabetes mellitus are also significant risk factors for TBI.

Researchers already knew that a history of TBI is a risk factor for developing migraines. In turn, migraines also appear to be a risk factor for TBI, potentially because symptoms such as light sensitivity and other visual impairments can increase a person’s likelihood of falling or being involved in a vehicle collision. Clinicians are advised to develop migraine-targeted treatment interventions to reduce the public health burden associated with brain injuries.

Wang Q-R, Lu Y-Y, Su Y-J, et al. Migraine and traumatic brain injury: A cohort study in Taiwan. BMJ Open. (July 2019).

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