A new study suggests that individuals who experience migraine in middle age may be at an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease (PD) and other movement disorders later in life. The study also reveals that those who have migraine with aura may be at double the risk of developing PD. According to an American Academy of Neurology (AAN) news release, 5,620 people between the ages of 33 and 65 years were followed for 25 years for the study. At the beginning of the study, 3,924 of the participants had no headaches, 1,028 had headaches with no migraine symptoms, 238 had migraine with no aura, and 430 had migraine with aura.

The investigators assessed whether the participants had any symptoms of PD or had been diagnosed with the conditions, or had symptoms of restless legs syndrome. The results of the study showed that people with migraine with aura were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with PD than people with no headaches. The AAN news release notes that a total of 2.4% of those with migraine with aura had the disease compared to 1.1% of those with no headaches. Generally, 19.7% 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.

In addition, the results of the study indicate that women with migraine with aura were also more likely to have a family history of PD compared to those with no headaches.

Ann I. Scher, PhD, a member of the AAN, states, “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. More research should focus on exploring this possible link through genetic studies.” Scher adds, “While the history of migraine is associated with an increased risk for Parkinson’s, that risk is still quite low.”

Scher says, “Migraine is the most common brain disorder in both men and women. 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.”

Source: American Academy of Neurology