Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have isolated yet another factor that seems to be associated with migraines. Unfortunately, their new discovery doesn’t get us any closer to understanding the true cause of migraines or finding a cure for the condition that is likely to work for everyone.
A Few Arcs Short of a Full Circle
In the 17th century English anatomist Thomas Willis described a loop of arteries in the brain that are all connected together. This loop, now known as the circle of Willis, is supposed to protect the cerebral blood flow from either surges or shortages in blood flow. However, it has long been known that many people don’t have the complete circle.
Now researchers at Penn have shown that an incomplete circle of Willis is more likely to be found in people with migraines. People with traditional migraines with aura had the highest likelihood of having an incomplete circle of Willis (73%), followed by people with migraines without aura (67%), and people without migraines (51%).
What Causes Migraine?
This study has given support for what used to be the most popular explanation of migraines, that they’re caused by irregularities in blood flow in the brain. However, this study also shows that it’s unlikely that there’s a single cause of migraines. After all, if it were just about blood flow, how do we explain the fact that half of people who don’t have migraines seem to be subject to the same limited blood flow as migraine sufferers. Not only that, but what about the 27% of people who experience traditional aura migraines but have a complete circle of Willis? It seems we have many theories, but no clear answer about what causes migraines.
Medication-Free Migraine Prevention
We do, however, have several effective treatment options for migraines. This includes the use of TMJ therapy, which has been shown to reduce the frequency of migraines, and for some people may even reduce their severity, without medication.