Migraine with Aura May Increase Risk of Atrial Fibrillation

AF headacheAnyone who has experienced the pain of a migraine knows that it is a pain unlike any other. Even those who have never had a migraine of their own are aware of the intense pain they can cause. One part of migraines that is not discussed as openly, though, are the sensory auras.

A visual aura is a disturbance to the vision that often occurs right before the pain of a migraine strikes and can continue throughout. Not all migraine patients experience sensory auras, and for those who do, they can take different forms.


In terms of visual aura, they can appear as blurry lines across the field of vision, flashing spots of light, sudden tunnel vision, intense blurring of the vision, and blind spots, among others.

A new study has identified even further risks from these migraine auras related to cardiovascular health. The focus of the study was on headaches in relation to atrial fibrillations (AF). The researchers recruited 11,939 participants who had not previously experienced atrial fibrillation or stroke. The participants were evaluated for headaches and headaches symptoms, as well as for atrial fibrillations, with a follow-up period of up to 20 years.

“Since atrial fibrillation is a common source of strokes caused by blood clots, and previous research has shown a link between migraine with aura and stroke, we wanted to see if people who have migraine with aura also have a higher rate of atrial fibrillation,” said study author Souvik Sen. “Atrial fibrillation can be managed through medication, but many people do not realize that they have atrial fibrillation.”

Migraines with Auras Have Higher AF Than Migraines Without

Out of all the participants, 9,405 did not have any headaches symptoms and 1,516 were assessed with migraines. Around 25 percent (426) of the participants with migraines experiences migraines with visual auras. Only 17 percent of the control group (those without migraines) experienced atrial fibrillation throughout the course of the study. The participants who had migraines had a 14 percent rate of atrial fibrillation. This statistic increased to 18 percent for those who experienced migraines with visual auras.

The results were adjusted for age, sex, blood pressure, smoking, and other factors that could affect risk of atrial fibrillation and after the adjustment, patients with migraines with auras showed a 30 percent increase in their risk of developing atrial fibrillation compared to those without migraines and a 40 percent increase in their risk compared to those with migraines without auras.


“Our research suggests that atrial fibrillation may play a role in stroke in those with migraine with visual aura,” said Sen. “It is important to note that people with migraine with aura may be at a higher risk of atrial fibrillation due to problems with the autonomic nervous system, which helps control the heart and blood vessels. More research is needed to determine if people with migraine with visual aura should be screened for atrial fibrillation.”

Future studies will need to expand the criteria for migraines and examine how these risks play a role in those who experience migraines for only a short period of their life.

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Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.



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