When you suffer from a painful migraine–you know, the type of throbbing headache that comes with nausea and extreme sensitivity to light–you pop some aspirin and soon enough there’s no trace of it, right? Wrong. A recent study published in the journal Neurology has found that even when the pain goes away, migraines may leave their mark on your brain.
When researchers compared MRIs from migraine sufferers to those from subjects in control groups, they discovered that migraine sufferers were more at risk for: white matter lesions (scary-sounding, but harmless), shrinking gray matter (may contribute to memory loss), and infract-like abnormalities (may restrict blood flow to the brain and raise stroke risk).
If you’re lucky, your migraines stop at pulsing pain. But if they’re accompanied by an aura–seeing spots or flashing lights, or experiencing tingling, numbness, or weakness–then you may have an even higher risk for brain changes compared to those who don’t experience these symptoms, the researchers found.
The good news: While regular migraines may change the structure of your brain, there’s no proof that they affect brain function (i.e. your intelligence is safe!).