Midlife Migraines Tied to Increased Parkinson's Risk

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Midlife Migraines Tied to Increased Parkinson's Risk
Midlife Migraines Tied to Increased Parkinson's Risk

(HealthDay News) — Migraines in midlife may be associated with increased odds of developing Parkinson's disease or other movement disorders in later years, according to research published online September 17 in Neurology.

Ann I. Scher, PhD, from the Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, MD, and colleagues reviewed records of more than 5,600 Icelandic people aged 33–65 who were tracked for 25 years. At the study's start, about 4,000 participants had no headaches, with 1,028 suffering non-migraine headaches, 238 migraine with no aura, and 430 migraine with aura. In later life, participants were asked whether they'd been diagnosed with Parkinson's or experienced symptoms, had a family history of Parkinson's, or had symptoms of restless legs syndrome.

The findings showed that those with migraine with aura at midlife were more than twice as likely to have been later diagnosed with Parkinson's than people with no headaches. Those with migraine with aura were 3.6 times as likely to report four of six parkinsonian symptoms, while those with migraine with no aura were 2.3 times more likely. Overall, the study found nearly 20% of those with migraine with aura had symptoms, compared to 12.6% of those with migraine with no aura and 7.5% of those with no headaches.

Talking to Healthday, Michael Okun, MD, national medical director of the National Parkinson Foundation, called the new research "interesting." But he said it had several notable weaknesses, including that its participants were only from the Icelandic region and that some patients reporting Parkinson's symptoms had not been formally diagnosed with the disorder. "The idea that a history of migraine headaches has something to do with Parkinson's is intriguing, but there's not a lot of scientific data right now that would support that notion. I'd be extremely cautious to conclude that migraine is associated with Parkinson's."

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