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Iron Imbalance in Brain May Cause Migraine

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  • Iron Imbalance in Brain May Cause Migraine

    Friday September 28 6:22 PM ET
    Iron Imbalance in Brain May Cause Migraine
    By Will Boggs, MD

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Abnormalities in the way the brain's pain control center handles iron may lead to the development of migraine attacks and headaches, according to a study by Kansas researchers.

    During migraine, a portion of the brain known as the periaqueductal gray matter (PAG) may fail to ``switch on'' to prevent pain, Dr. K. Michael Welch of the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City told Reuters Health.

    ``In migraine, a trigger such as stress activates the PAG but it does not switch on because it is dysfunctional,'' he explained, ``or else switches on an abnormal part.''

    The result? ``Pain instead of no pain,'' according to Welch.

    His team studied levels of iron in the PAG of patients with either migraine headaches or recurrent, non-migraine headaches and compared them to levels in people without headache or migraine.

    Changes in iron levels can reflect changes in the way the cells of the PAG work, the authors pointed out.

    According to the report, published in a recent issue of the journal Headache, iron levels in the PAG were significantly increased in patients with migraine and those with headache compared to the headache-free group.

    In fact, the researchers pointed out, the longer patients had experienced headaches, the higher the iron levels in the PAG were, though iron levels at the beginning of their illness were still clearly higher than normal.

    Increased iron levels may be both a cause of migraine attacks and a result of repeated headaches, the investigators noted.

    ``Thus, we believe that the increased (iron levels) in our migraine groups reflect impaired iron (balance), possibly associated with (nerve) dysfunction or damage,'' the authors concluded.

    ``Perhaps the PAG abnormality is essential to the cause of the headache in migraine,'' Welch said. ``The gradual deposition of iron increases dysfunction, and headaches coalesce from episodic to continuous.''

    How, then, might one minimize the damage from increased iron stores? Welch advised, ``Treat episodes quickly and prevent (attacks) whenever possible.''

    SOURCE: Headache 2001;41:629-637

  • #2
    So what is the plan from this article. You post it but mention nothing a person can do to reduce iron in their PAG. Also, is there a link between sinus and migraine? It seems that every time I have any little sinus infection or issue my migraines go off the richter scale. I experience numbness in my head, ear, and face in the area of my sinus cavity closest to my tear duct radiating out to my cheek. I had a surgery to remove a pea sized cyst near my tear duct which alleviated daily migraines, now they are sporadic, about every 3 weeks. I'm terrified taking Sumatriptan because I have heard you can have a stroke. I'm nearly 49 and have a sister who had a brain aneurism in child birth, and a mother who had triple bypass surgery. My point in mentioning my mother is because onset for her was around my age.


    • #3
      Do you have a spinal cord injury?? Can't tell from your profile. Curious about why you are posting on threads that are 12 years old?????

      The SCI-Nurses are advanced practice nurses specializing in SCI/D care. They are available to answer questions, provide education, and make suggestions which you should always discuss with your physician/primary health care provider before implementing. Medical diagnosis is not provided, nor do the SCI-Nurses provide nursing or medical care through their responses on the CareCure forums.