A study of 39,754 women by researchers at Brigham and Women Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston showed that women who have a migraine with aura have a higher risk of stroke. Women below 55 years old were at greatest risk, with more than double the risk of ischemic stroke. There was no increased stroke risk for women who experienced migraine without auras, or for women with non-migraine headaches.
The results were presented in April 2004 at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in San Francisco.
Auras refer to temporary neurological symptoms that may include blind spots, flashing spots, streams of light, tingling and weakness in the face and limbs on one side, giddiness or difficulty speaking – similar to the symptoms of a stroke.
The increase risk was for ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blocked blood flow to the brain, and not for hemorrhagic stroke, which is caused by bleeding in the brain.
Though the findings are statistically significant, the total number of strokes is still very small. So many women with migraine with aura do not really get strokes and they should not be alarmed by these findings.