Migraines in middle age may be associated with developing Parkinson’s disease in later years, a new research suggests. Migraines are the most common brain disorder in both men and women, according to the World Health Organization, and one of the top 10 most debilitating conditions. The study also suggested that the migraine-Parkinson’s association was stronger in women with migraines preceded by aura. An aura is a warning sign of a pending attack that includes flashes of light and skin tingling.
“We should emphasize that while the risk is increased for Parkinson’s disease and these [similar] symptoms, they’re still uncommon among those with migraine,” said study author Ann Scher, a professor of epidemiology at Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Md. “I don’t think people should necessarily worry that if they have migraines, Parkinson’s disease is [in their future].” The research is published in the Sept. 17 online edition of the journal Neurology.
Around 1 million people in the United States are suffering from Parkinson’s disease, as stated by the National Parkinson Foundation. It causes tremors, stiffness, slow movement and is incurable. More than 5600 Icelandic people aged 33 to 65 were tracked for 25 years for the said research. 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.
“Previous studies noted that migraine, particularly migraine with aura, was linked to cardiovascular disease and stroke, so there’s increasing interest in whether these linkages might manifest in other neurological symptoms later in life,” Scher said.
Dr. Michael Okun, 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,” said Okun, also co-director of the Movement Disorders Center at the University of Florida. “I’d be extremely cautious to conclude that migraine is associated with Parkinson’s.”