Common treatments do not seem to offer relief to millions of people who have been tortured by migraine. People with migraine will totally agree that it is a very painful and often debilitating part of life.
Besides taking prescribed medications and supplements, some of them have to change their diets, many need to move to different climates, and others even require to avoid certain aromas. They do all these just with one aim: hope to control their headaches, but sad to say that for many sufferers, none of those measures work for them.
Now, there may be a way to help these people get rid of migraine.
In clinical trials conducted worldwide, researchers are closing a passageway through the heart in migraine sufferers and then waiting to see if the headaches go away or get better.
Doctors learnt about such linkage when stroke patients underwent experimental procedures to close the passage. Interestingly, some patients who had suffered from migraines reported that their headaches either disappeared or were greatly reduced after the operation.
The passage through the heart is known as the patent foramen ovale (PFO). It is a small hole that helps fetuses circulate oxygen-rich blood while in the womb. It usually closes after birth, but about 25 per cent of people still have the hole opened in their heart.
When people with the open passage strain, cough or sneeze, the flaps can be forced open, allowing unfiltered, oxygen-poor blood to flow into the rest of the body and brain.
It is obvious that the hole itself does not cause migraines. It is the mixture of oxygen-carrying blood with oxygen-poor blood that may cause inflammation to attack the brain and thus trigger migraines in people already prone to the headaches.
Nevertheless, many migraine sufferers don't have such an opening in their hearts, and likewise, many who have the holes never have migraines. According to the researchers, people with certain types of migraines, especially those with aura (warning signs which resemble blurred vision or flashes of light) are twice as likely to have the opening than people who don't have migraines.
It is difficult to detect PFO, which does not disrupt the heartbeat as other valve defects do, unless specialized tests are employed. However, it can allow small blood clots to pass through and cause strokes. About 50 percent of the strokes suffered by people under 50 are caused by clots passing through the PFO.
In a European trial, 40 per cent of people with the hole repaired reported that their headaches were less frequent or didn't last as long.