Newswise — Bethesda, MD –Migraine suffers may be at greater risk for developing Parkinson’s disease or other movement disorders later in life, according to a new study published in the Sept. 17, 2014, online issue of Neurology ®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. Those who have migraine with aura may be at double the risk for developing these disorders.

“Migraine is the most common neurologic disorder in both men and women,” said study author Ann I. Scher, PhD, a professor of epidemiology at the F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, in Bethesda, MD. “It has been linked in other studies to cerebrovascular and heart disease. This new possible association is one more reason research is needed to understand, prevent and treat the condition.”

Scher and her colleagues from the National Institute on Aging, the University of Iceland, and the Icelandic Heart Association, studied 5,620 people between the ages of 33 and 65 for more than 25 years. At the beginning of the study, 3,924 of participants did not suffer from headaches, 1,028 had headaches without migraine symptoms, 238 had migraine with no aura, and 430 had migraine with aura. They later assessed whether participants had any symptoms of parkinsonism or had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease or had symptoms of Willis-Ekbom disease, a related disorder more commonly known as “restless legs syndrome (RLS).”

The study found that people with migraine with aura were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s than people with no headaches. A total of 2.4 percent of those with migraine with aura had the disease, compared to 1.1 percent of those with no headaches. People with migraine with aura had 3.6 times the odds of reporting at least four of six parkinsonian symptoms, while those with migraine with no aura were 2.3 times the odds of these symptoms. Overall, 19.7 percent of those with migraine with aura had symptoms, compared to 12.6 percent of those with migraine with no aura and 7.5 percent of those with no headaches. Women with migraine with aura were also more likely to have a family history of Parkinson’s disease compared to those with no headaches.

The risk of RLS was increased for people with all types of headache. A total of 20 percent of those with no headaches had RLS, compared to 28 percent of those with headaches with no migraine symptoms and 30 percent of those with migraine with aura.

“These findings suggest that there may be a shared vulnerability to migraine and parkinsonism in a small number of people. This could be related to dysfunction in the brain messenger dopamine, head injury, cerebrovascular disease, or some other mechanism. More research should focus on exploring this possible link through focused longitudinal studies.”

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging, the Icelandic Heart Association and the Icelandic Parliament.


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Neurology, Sept. 17, 2014