People who suffer from migraines during middle age are at double the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease or other movement disorders later in life, according to a new study. For the study, researchers followed 5,000 people between the ages of 33 and 65 for 25 years. At baseline, participants were asked about migraine symptoms in middle age and then at a follow-up 25 years later, asked about Parkinson’s disease symptoms, as well as symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome.
“The patients in this study were not carefully examined and definitely diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease,” said Dr. Michael S. Okun, national medical director of the National Parkinson Foundation, and believes more research is needed before any conclusions are drawn. “Head trauma and other neurological issues can manifest with symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease and future studies will need to better control for these factors.”
The researchers found that those with migraines with aura were twice as likely to have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, as well as report at least four symptoms commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease. Lead study author Ann Scher, a professor of epidemiology at Uniformed Services University in Maryland, told CNN in an email that migraines without aura were also found to be associated with Parkinson’s but the relationship was not as strong.
Scher says it is still unknown how the two are related but believe it is not due to medications or related brain diseases, “since we controlled for these factors.” She does agree that a possible explanation for the connection could be previous head injury or a shared genetic risk factor that would increase the risk for both migraine and Parkinson’s disease.