Middle-Aged Adults with Migraine at Higher Risk of Parkinson's Disease

First Posted: Sep 19, 2014 05:51 AM EDT

Middle-aged adults who have migraine are at an increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's disease is known to be a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects a person's movements. According to the Parkinson Disease Foundation, nearly one million Americans are living with Parkinson's and each year 60,000 of them are diagnosed with it. Men are more likely to be diagnosed with this progressive disorder.

Genetic factor plays a key role in this disease, and a few illnesses and environmental toxin also contributes to this disease. In the latest study conducted by researchers at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, it was found that middle-aged adults suffering from migraine attacks are more likely to develop Parkinson's disease. The risk increases by two-fold if migraine combines with aura. 

"Migraine is the most common brain disorder in both men and women," said study author Ann I. Scher, PhD, with Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, MD, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. "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."

The researchers based their finding on a study conducted on 5,620 people aged between 33 and 65 years. The participants were followed for 25 years. At the start of the study, nearly 3,924 participants had no headache complaints and no symptoms of migraine. Nearly 238 participants had migraine with no aura and 430 had migraine with aura.

Later, the researchers then looked at whether any of the participants displayed symptoms of Parkinson's or were being diagnosed with the disease or had restless leg syndrome (RLS).

They noticed that participants with migraine that is combined with aura had a two-fold increased risk of being diagnosed with Parkinson's as compared to people with no headaches. Nearly 2.4 percent of the people with migraine and aura had Parkinson's disease. The participants with migraine and aura displayed 4-6 symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

It was observed that women with migraine combined with aura, were more likely to have a family history of Parkinson's disease.

"A dysfunction in the brain messenger dopamine is common to both Parkinson's and RLS, and has been hypothesized as a possible cause of migraine for many years. Symptoms of migraine such as excessive yawning, nausea and vomiting are thought to be related to dopamine receptor stimulation," said Scher. "More research should focus on exploring this possible link through genetic studies. While the history of migraine is associated with an increased risk for Parkinson's, that risk is still quite low."

The finding is published in online issue Neurology, the medical journal of American Academy of Neurology.

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