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Migraines Linked to Parkinson's Disease

Sep 18, 2014 03:56 AM EDT

A team of researchers has found a link between migraines and Parkinson's disease.

According to scientists at the Uniformed Services University, people who suffer from migraines in middle-age are more likely than others to develop Parkinson's disease or PD in old age.

The study shows that the chronic, debilitating headaches are a risk factor for PD. Parkinson's disease occurs when the part of the brain, which controls motor functions, goes awry.

Symptoms of the disease include trembling hands or legs, stiffness, poor balance and lack of co-ordination.

"Migraine is the most common brain disorder in both men and women," said Ann I. Scher, PhD, of Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, MD, an author of the study. "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 study was based on data from 5,620 people aged between 33 to 65 years. The participants were followed for about 25 years. At the beginning of the study, around 430 had migraine with aura, 238 had migraine with no aura, 1,028 had headaches with no migraine and 3,924 of the participants had no headaches.

The study is published in the journal Neurology.                                

The researchers found that people with migraine plus aura had two times higher risk of PD than other people. In the study, 2.4 percent of the group with migraine had the disease, whereas just 1.1 percent in the no-headache group developed PD.

"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 in a news release. "More research should focus on exploring this possible link through genetic studies.

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