New research breakthrough could fast-track treatment for migraine sufferers

Australian researchers have made a world-first breakthrough into the study of migraines, linking genetics and brain size to the severity of the chronic condition.
It’s hoped the research could fast track the development of more effective treatment for millions of migraine sufferers around the world. National Chief of Staff Freya Noble said migraines have caused her excruciating pain for the last 10 years.

Freya Noble said it’s been years of trial and error to find a solution for the debilitating symptoms. (Nine)

“I start to lose my vision, I get numbness in my face, I’ll start to feel dizzy and then I’ve got about half an hour before I’m totally incapacitated in bed,” she said.

“It can be really, really hard at times… There’s been a lot of missed work, missed events.

“And it’s really expensive to be sick as well.”

Noble said she’s tried multiple medications and solutions in a bid to find relief with varying degrees of success.

“It’s a lot of trial and error, you feel like a bit of a science experiment,” she said.

Migraines are considered a neurological disorder which affect one in four, or almost five million Australians, impacting more women than men.

Migraines present as severe and debilitating headaches – usually on one side of the head – that cause a painful throbbing and pulsing feeling, often accompanied by nausea, dizziness, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sounds.

Migraine is the most common brain disease in the world.
Migraines are a neurological condition affecting almost 5 million Australians. (Getty)

Over half of all people who suffer from migraines do not respond to treatment at all.

The condition can last a few hours or even weeks and months, with productivity loss and health care expenses costing the nation’s economy an estimated $35.7 billion a year.

Dr Brittany Mitchell is the lead scientist behind the new research, facilitated by the QIMR Berghofer research institute in Brisbane.

She said those with smaller brains and smaller brain structures are more likely to experience migraines.

“We found for the first time brain size might actually influence the risk of having migraines,” Dr Mitchell said.

Dr Mitchell said the study revealed the smaller the brain and brain structure of a person, the higher the chance of developing migraines. (Nine)

“Our research found that a smaller brain size and smaller structures within the brain, such as the hippocampus and the amygdala, cause an increased risk of migraine, and that this might be due to shared biological pathways that affect neuronal signalling or the regulation of blood flow.”

The study examined hundreds of thousands of patients to make the world-first discovery.

Dr Mitchell said it’s an exciting step towards furthering knowledge of the complex condition and developing more effective treatments.

“As a migraine sufferer myself I know how debilitating this can be,” she said.

“This gives us very exciting opportunities to look at possible avenues where we can target new treatments.”

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