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Low dose of aspirin keeps migraine away.

Low dose of aspirin keeps migraine away

One aspirin tablet taken every other day cuts the risk of migraine headaches, new research indicates. The finding supports earlier suggestions that aspirin, which reduces clumping of key blood-clotting components called platelets, might help block the debilitating and poorly understood series of events that produces migraine symptoms.

About 18 million people in the United States suffer these intensely painful attacks, which may begin with a period of tiredness followed by nausea, visual hallucinations and gripping pain that can last for hours. While migraine symptoms are well known, their cause remains baffling. Researchers believe migraines start when platelets clump together and release a neurotransmitter called serotonin. The serotonin causes arteries in the brain to constrict and dilate -- a sequence that seems to produce migraine symptoms.

A team led by Julie E. Buring of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital studied data from the U.S. Physicians' Health Study, in which 22,000 male physicians aged 40 to 84 took 325 milligrams of aspirin or placebo every other day for five years (SN: 1/30/88, p.68). The Boston researchers homed in on 1,479 migraine sufferers in the group, finding that 6 percent of those taking aspirin reported migraines during the study, compared with 7.4 percent of those on placebo. This represents a 20 percent reduction in migraine risk for those taking aspirin. Buring presented her results this week at the American Heart Association's 15th International Joint Conference on Stroke and Cerebral Circulation in Orlando, Fla.

"Given the number of people who suffer from migraine, it's quite an important finding," says Richard Peto at the University of Oxford, England, who collaborated with the Boston team. In 1988, Peto reported results from a smaller study of British male physicians, showing that a daily dose of aspirin cut migraine risk by about 29 percent.

Buring and her colleagues say the accumulating evidence suggests some migraine sufferers could benefit from aspirin therapy. Peto agrees, saying, "A migraine patient should consider taking a baby aspirin a day."

Arthur H. Elkind, director of the Elkind Headache Center in Mount Vernon, N.Y., says he believes aspirin may stave off some migraines, but like many physicians, he notes that aspirin can cause internal bleeding and other side effects in some patients. He and others in the field advise migraine patients to see a physician before embarking on long-term aspirin therapy.
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Author:Fackelmann, K.A.
Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 17, 1990
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