Could migraines be an early Parkinson’s indicator?

By admin
02 October 2014

Parkinson's disease is twice as likely to develop in middle-aged people who suffer from migraines than those who don't, a new study has found.

Scientists believe that those who show early migraine warning signs, known as migraine aura, such as seeing flashing lights are more at risk. This is because of a dysfunction in the brain messenger dopamine, but researchers stressed the risk is still low.

'More research should focus on exploring this possible link through genetic studies'

While the exact causes of migraines is still unknown, figures from the NHS show that one in every five women, and one in every 15 men, suffer migraines, which usually begin in early adulthood.

They are thought to be the result of temporary changes in the chemicals and blood vessels in the brain. Around half of all people who experience migraines also have a close relative with the condition, suggesting that genes may play a role.

The study was published online in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, and examined 5,620 people aged between 33 and 65 over a 25-year period. At the start of the study, 3,924 had no headaches, 1,028 had headaches with no migraine symptoms, 238 had migraine with no aura and 430 had migraine with aura. As the study progressed the participants were assessed for any symptoms of Parkinson's, been diagnosed with Parkinson's or had symptoms of RLS (restless legs syndrome) - also known as Willis-Ekbom disease.

A total of 2,4 per cent of those with migraine with aura had the disease, compared to 1,1 percent of those with no headaches. People with migraine with aura were 3,6 times more likely to report at least four of six symptoms of Parkinson's, while those with migraine with no aura had 2,3 times the odds of these symptoms. Overall, 19,7 per cent of those with migraine with aura had symptoms, compared to 12,6 per cent of those with migraine with no aura and 7,5 per cent of those with no headaches. Women with migraine with aura were also more likely to have a family history of Parkinson's disease compared to those with no headaches.

Dr Ann Scher of the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda said: "Migraine is the most common brain disorder in both men and women. A dysfunction in the brain messenger dopamine is common to both Parkinson's and restless legs syndrome (RLS), and has been hypothesised 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," she added. "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."

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