Special Interest Section Profile: Migraine and Vascular Disease

The American Headache Society is home to a diverse array of Special Interest Sections that connect members with shared expertise and interest to collaborate on research efforts, develop practice models and provide multidisciplinary participation in support of the Society’s mission.

The goals of the Special Interest Section focused on Migraine and Vascular Disease are closely aligned with AHS’s mission to facilitate the exchange of information and ideas about causes and treatments of headache disorders. By exploring how migraine and stroke are inter-related, the Migraine and Vascular Disease section is making great strides in a developing and quickly expanding field. Their crucial research is contributing to the identification of migraine as a possible risk factor for stroke.

We spoke with Section Co-Chairs Huma Sheikh, MD and Paul B. Rizzoli, MD, FAHS, FAAN about the group’s current and ongoing work, and their vision for the future.

Name of Special Interest Section

Migraine and Vascular Disease

Name of Section Chair

Huma U Sheikh, Paul Rizzoli

Number of Members


What is the mission of your Special Interest Section?

Our mission is to explore the areas of overlap between cardiovascular disease, including stroke and migraine. This includes the recent interest in specifying the risk of stroke in women with migraine who also use hormonal contraceptives. This also includes treating and identifying secondary headaches due to cardiovascular phenomena, like stroke, dissection and cerebrovascular malformations.

What are some recent projects your section has been a part of?

We recently completed a systematic review of the previous studies that have looked at the use of hormonal contraceptives in women who have migraine, and it was published in Headache. The goal was to determine if these women had a higher risk of stroke than women with migraine who did not use hormonal contraceptives. We hope to use this review as a foundation to publish updated guidelines on the use of hormonal contraceptives in women with migraine with and without aura.

We also held a pre-course during last year’s Scientific Meeting, which was set up as a debate between the pros and cons of using hormonal contraceptives in women with migraine. Anne Calhoun, Gretchen Tietjen and Jelena Pavlovic were all panel members. There was a full room, which was very exciting and encouraging.

What are the future goals of this Special Interest Section?

We recently went over ideas to better assess the risk of stroke in women with migraine with aura who are using contraceptives that contain a low dose estrogen. We’re also planning on developing sessions for this year’s conference, discussing the relationship between migraine and preeclampsia, as well as the relationship between migraine and cervical dissection.

We also hope to develop educational material for patients as well as other practitioners who come across patients with migraine. The topics to educate on included how to differentiate between a TIA and migraine aura. We discussed possible places to distribute this information, including using the AMF Facebook Live forum or possibly paper materials

How is this Special Interest Section making an impact in the field of Headache Medicine?

We are helping to identify, quantify and research the relationship that is now emerging between migraine and cardiovascular issues. Stroke risk is higher among women with migraine with aura but the reasons for this are unclear. There are also a number of other headache conditions that arise from primarily cerebrovascular issues. This section hopes to research these areas as well as educate the headache and medical community in general about these phenomena.

Educating physicians, health professionals and the public and encouraging scientific research are the primary functions of the American Headache Society, and we’re grateful to the Migraine and Vascular Disease Section for actively working to advance those goals. By furthering research into the relationship between vascular pathology and migraine, the members of this special interest section are ensuring that the American Headache Society and its members will remain at the forefront of emerging headache treatment technologies.

If you are an AHS member who would like to get involved in the Migraine and Vascular Disease Special Interest Section, get in touch.


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