Brain blood flow and menstrual migraine: is there a link?

Tuesday, 12 March 2019


Poor blood vessel function, which has been linked with cardiovascular diseases such as stroke and heart disease, may also be implicated in migraine, researchers at the University of Newcastle and the Hunter Medical Research Institute say.

Migraine is a common debilitating condition associated with physical, mental and social disability and is estimated to cost the Australian economy a staggering $35.7 billion each year due to health care and loss of productivity costs.

Women are three times more likely to experience migraine compared to men and this is thought to be due to fluctuations in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. “Almost one in 10 women suffer from menstrual migraine, which are migraines that typically occur around the time of menstruation,” said Dr Rachel Wong, NHMRC-ARC Dementia Fellow.

“Despite how common this condition is, research surrounding menstrual migraine is scarce and treatment options are limited which is very unfortunate for sufferers. Studies have shown that menstrual migraines appear to be more painful, more recurrent and more resistant to treatment compared to regular migraines,” Dr Wong added.

The research team at the University of Newcastle Clinical Nutrition Research Centre predict that women who suffer from menstrual migraine may have poorer blood vessel function in the brain compared to those who do not. “If this is shown to be true, it may facilitate the development of ground-breaking treatments that can counteract menstrual migraine by improving blood vessel function in the brain,” said Clinical Nutrition Research Centre director, Emeritus Professor Peter Howe.

The team is looking for women aged over 18 years to participate in a study that aims to examine links between blood flow in the brain and menstrual migraine. “We need women who suffer from menstrual migraine and also women who do not suffer from migraine to serve as controls,” said Jemima Dzator, PhD scholar.

Eligible participants will be invited to visit the research centre at the University of Newcastle on one occasion to have the blood flow in their brain measured by non-invasive ultrasound.

Participants will be advised of the overall findings of the study as well as their individualised results once all the data has been analysed.

To find out more about this study, please contact Jemima Dzator at the Clinical Nutrition Research Centre on (02) 4921 8616 or email cnrc@newcastle.edu.au.

* HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.