The research, published in The Journal of Headache and Pain, assessed data from the 2002-19 Korean National Health Insurance Health Screening Cohort to determine whether patients with migraine have an increased risk for dementia compared to those without the neurological condition.
Overall, data from 44,195 patients with migraine and 44,195 individuals without migraine was assessed by scientists, including those from Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul.
Migraines are a neurological disorder characterised by frequent disabling headaches, often accompanied by symptoms called aura – a known risk factor for conditions such as stroke and heart attack.
These headaches affect nearly 15 per cent of the global population and are most prevalent among young and middle-aged adults, while dementia mainly affects older people.
In the new study, scientists analysed the risk of developing different types of dementia after migraine diagnosis over a 16-year follow-up period using Korean population-based data.
Researchers found the incidence rate of dementia was 139.6 cases per 10,000 in patients with migraine and 107.7 cases per 10,000 in the control group.
Researchers said patients with migraine had a higher risk for different types of the neurodegenerative disorder, including Alzheimer dementia, vascular dementia, mixed or other specified dementia versus matched controls.
“In conclusion, in the present study, patients with migraine had an increased risk of developing all-cause dementia, Alzheimer dementia, vascular dementia, and other dementias compared with their risk-set matched controls,” the scientists wrote in the study.
Researchers speculated there to be several possible explanations for this link between migraine and dementia.
They said migraine is associated with structural brain changes, including those that affect blood flow in the brain as well as lesions and brain volume changes.
Scientists also speculated inflammation, plaque formation, deficits in nerve growth factors and chronic pain-related changes in the memory network structure of brain may be involved.
However, they said further studies are needed to generalise the findings to global populations and to uncover the underlying mechanisms linking migraine and dementia.