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HeadWay, Issue #098 -- Trouble remembering words during migraine?
August 21, 2012

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In this month's issue:

Migraine: Destroying Your Mind?

More about Transient Global Amnesia (TGA)

Say what?!  Cognitive

Migraine: Destroying Your Mind?

Do you ever have trouble thinking of the right word?  Do you feel like your memory is going downhill?  Are you feeling tense and restless?  Just how much is migraine (or chronic headache) actually hurting your ability to think?  And is there anything you can do about it?

Recently another study came out about how migraine impacts cognitive ability.  This time, the focus was on women, and the question was - is migraine disease causing faster cognitive decline than is normal?

The answer?  No.  Good news, right?

Yes, it's good news.  On the other hand, I don't think there are enough long term studies to be totally confident that migraine is not hurting your ability to think.  We do know that migraine - particularly when it's chronic - does do damage to the brain.  And we know it increases your risk of other serious diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease and stroke.

But here's the other side to the story.  Migraine can and does cause cognitive problems, particularly during an attack.  Here are some of the thinking-problems that can be caused by various types of migraine and headache disorders.  Be sure to take note, and tell your doctor if you're experiencing any of these:
  • Trouble concentrating - this can commonly happen not only during the heart of the migraine attack, but in the hours and days before the main part of the attack hits (usually headache).
  • Aphasia - difficulty with language.  This could be difficulty in finding a word, trouble understanding words or reading, trouble following instructions.
  • Decrease in consciousness/loss of consciousness
  • Slurred speech
  • Memory loss
It's very important to tell your doctor about these symptoms.  They could be a sign of a related illness (for example, serious memory loss could relate to transient global amnesia (TGA), which may go along with migraine in many cases), or they could be symptoms of a medication (Topamax is well known for causing language disturbances), or they could just be symptoms of migraine.  They could help your doctor decide what treatment to focus on first.

Read more about the recent study at Good News: Migraines Hurt Your Head but Not Your Brain, and listen to the podcast on the topic and other topics Website News, Migraine in Women, Migraine Research (Podcast)

More about Transient Global Amnesia (TGA)

Transient Global Amnesia (TGA) is a rare condition that has been linked to a history of migraine.  It's a form of memory loss that comes about quite suddenly.  The patient can no longer form new lasting memories, and so they can't recall the recent past.  They may not be able to remember familiar names, and may repeat the same questions and comments over and over.

The good news is that TGA lasts only a few hours - usually less than a day.  Memory ability will gradually return.

No one knows exactly why TGA happens, although there may be some relation to blood flow to the brain.  This could be why migraine is linked to TGA, and it's often triggered by sex, strenuous activity, sudden immersion in cold water, or even distressing news.

Although TGA will resolve on its own and doesn't require treatment, it is critical to see a doctor as soon as symptoms develop.  It's much more likely that these symptoms are a sign of stroke or another more serious disease.

For more on TGA in real life, read this CNN article Sex, then amnesia...and it's no soap opera

Say what?!  Cognitive

Cognitive is an adjective which means having to do with intellectual activity.  This would include memory, judgement, thinking, knowledge, understanding, imagining, learning, and reasoning.  Sometimes symptoms that appear to be cognitive (such as slurred speech) may have another cause.  Researchers use specific tests to measure people's ability to remember, learn words, and understand instructions.

Thanks for reading!  Remember, if you have feedback or ideas for future issues, visit the HeadWay MailRoom.  Your password is nomoache.
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