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Get Older, Get Less Migraines? Not Always

Posted by Migraine Relief Center on Oct 10, 2014 7:00:00 AM

Is there any consolation or solace when getting older? There seems to be a 21st century thought paradigm that idolizes youth and attempts to delay the inevitable life experience of aging. For most people who deal with migraine conditions, getting older can be a blessing in disguise. This, however, is not the case for everyone.

According to research statistics cited by The Migraine Trust in the United Kingdom, 90 percent of people who suffer from migraines will experience their first attack before they turn 40 years old. Patients who are diagnosed with migraines in their teenage years are more likely to develop a chronic condition, but they may grow out of it before they turn 50. Nearly half of all migraine patients will stop experiencing episodes in their golden years.  

Patients whose migraines have not abandoned them by the time they are 60 will have to pay special attention to their health since they will be at greater risk of stroke. Migraine management is different for patients who have entered their senior citizen years, and it can be particularly complex for the few who experience a migraine for the first time whey they are older.

Underlying Causes of Geriatric Migraines

When migraine symptoms are experienced by older patients for the first time in their lives, physicians have a treatment advantage in the sense that they can almost always count on an underlying cause. A single report of a strong headache by geriatric patients does not equate a migraine condition, but headaches at this age are always of special concern.

An embolism, a thrombosis or a vascular episode involving vasoconstriction can be responsible for migraine-like symptoms later in life. Transient ischemic attacks that commonly do not affect us during our younger years can develop into seizures and full strokes when we get older. To a certain extent, the migraine symptoms we may exhibit in our golden years can actually help our doctors diagnose a serious condition by ordering a radiological scan and implementing a treatment plan right away.

How Migraines Change over Time

Most patients whose migraine conditions started before the age of 40 will enjoy relief as they get older. Migraine episodes will not be as frequent and their intensity will likely diminish. There is a certain concern, however, for patients who suffer from chronic migraines with aura.

Migraine auras are neurological conditions that tend to precede headache episodes. These auras consist of visual and sensory disturbances that may include the following:
  • Temporary blindness
  • Hearing loss
  • Mumbled speech
  • Strange visual effects

Patients who experience auras in their younger years may notice their headaches diminish and their auras remain as they age. This could signal a neurological problem insofar as years of migraines having caused a certain degree of cerebral damage. Migraine specialists believe that living with migraines may lead to gradual debilitation of brain tissue, which in turn could lead to an increased risk of geriatric stroke.

In some cases, older patients who have never experienced a migraine headache in their lives will develop a condition that only involves the auras, which are called accompaniments in geriatric patients. Unfortunately, these neurological accompaniments are related to transient ischemic attacks and cerebrovascular conditions that signal a debilitation of cortical matter. Treatment of this condition is mostly pharmaceutical and involves medications that are typically used to treat migraines in younger patients.

As can be expected, the risk of stroke is the most serious concern for geriatric patients who suddenly experience migraine auras and headache episodes for the first time in their lives. The dosage of the medications prescribed will tend to be lower for the purpose of avoiding medication side effects and causing additional health problems. Should the geriatric migraine condition worsen and turn chronic, physicians may recommend a preventative treatment that involves lifestyle changes and management.

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Topics: Migraine

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