If you suffer from migraines, it’s likely you have significantly higher concentrations of sodium in your cerebrospinal fluid compared to people who do not suffer from migraines.
These findings come from a novel study that used a technique called sodium MRI to assess the migraine sufferers. The findings were presented at the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual conference.
Migraines are a type of headache characterized by severe head pain, and sometimes nausea and vomiting. They can also include vision changes called auras. Migraine affects about 18 percent of women and 6 percent of men. But those numbers may be higher, as migraines are difficult to diagnose.
“It would be helpful to have a diagnostic tool supporting or even diagnosing migraine and differentiating migraine from all other types of headaches,” said study author Melissa Meyer, M.D., radiology resident at the Institute of Clinical Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, University Hospital Mannheim and Heidelberg University in Heidelberg, Germany.
The researchers used a magnetic resonance technique called cerebral sodium MRI as a possible means to help in the diagnosis and understanding of migraines. While MRI most often relies on protons to generate an image, sodium can also be visualized, and it has been shown with previous research that sodium plays an important role in brain chemistry.
The study included 12 women with a mean age of 34 years and who had been clinically evaluated for migraine, and 12 women of similar ages to serve as a control group. Both groups underwent cerebral sodium MRI and both groups completed a questionnaire on the length, intensity and frequency of their migraine attacks and accompanying auras. The sodium concentrations for both groups were analyzed and they found no statistical differences between the two groups for sodium concentrations in the gray and white matter, brain stem and cerebellum.
There were, however, significant differences when the researchers looked at sodium concentrations in the cerebrospinal fluid, which is the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord and provides a cushion for the brain.
“These findings might facilitate the challenging diagnosis of a migraine,” Dr. Meyer said.
The researchers hope to learn more about the connection between migraines and sodium in future studies.
“As this was an exploratory study, we plan to examine more patients, preferably during or shortly after a migraine attack, for further validation,” Dr. Meyer said.