Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 25th 2014 Contents B44
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, September 25, 2014
People who experience migraines with aura dur-
ing middle age are more than twice as likely as
those without headaches to be diagnosed with
Parkinson s disease later in life, according to a new
Whether or not you ve had headaches, Parkinson s
disease is still rare, lead author Ann I Scher told
"This definitely should not alarm people," said
Scher, of the Uniformed Services University and the
National Institute on Ageing in Bethesda, Mary-
"Even though the risk was doubled, it was still
uncommon, so people should not be unduly con-
cerned," she said.
Nonetheless, the results are novel and should be
interesting to scientists and researchers, she said.
Past studies have linked migraine with movement
disorders like Parkinson s and restless legs syndrome,
in part based on shared features such as dysfunction
in the brain s responses to the neurotransmitter
dopamine, Scher and her colleagues note in the
But those studies were limited to groups with
specific disorders, so she and her team wanted to
look at a broader population sample over time to
see if migraine was linked to later Parkinson s.
The researchers used data from an existing study
started by the Icelandic Heart Association in 1967,
which included people born between 1907 and 1935.
The men and women randomly selected to be
part of the study group answered questions about
headache symptoms at an average age of 51. If they
reported at least one headache per month, they
answered follow-up questions to categorise the type
of headache based on migraine symptoms like nausea,
pain on one side of the head, sensitivity to light,
visual disturbance before or during the headache
Non-migraine headaches include none, or at most
one, of those symptoms. Someone who has migraine
without aura might experience nausea, one-sided
pain or sensitivity to light. Migraines with aura
include visual disturbance or numbness in addition
to any of the other symptoms.
Of the 5,620 people included in the study, almost
4,000 had no headaches, 1,028 reported non-
migraine headaches, 430 had migraines with aura
and 238 had migraines without aura.
Typically, Scher said, about a third of migraine
sufferers have migraines with aura.
In an interview at around age 77, participants
answered questions about movement disorder symp-
toms like hand tremor, weak voice, stiff gait, arm
rigidity, slowed arm movement or smaller hand-
Almost nine per cent of the group reported four
or more movement disorder symptoms.
All movement symptoms were more common for
people who reported migraine with aura earlier in
life, especially hand tremor and arm rigidity.
Most symptoms were also more common for peo-
ple with migraine without aura, but the connection
was stronger for those with aura, according to study
Only 1.2 per cent of the group as a whole reported
being diagnosed with Parkinson s disease. Those
who had reported migraine with aura were two and
a half times more likely to be diagnosed with Parkin-
son s than those with no headaches.
While Parkinson s disease was strongly related to
certain types of headaches, restless leg syndrome
was more common for people with all types of
headaches. The same connection has been found
before, Scher said.
"You wonder, because it s a population based
study and done sometime ago, whether some of
Migraines linked to Parkinson's
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those labelled as migraine without aura
did have aura," said Dr Peter J Goadsby,
a headache diagnosis and treatment spe-
cialist at the University of California, San
Francisco, who was not part of the new
He has almost never encountered a
patient with headaches and Parkinson s
disease, but it is interesting to consider
headaches earlier in life and Parkinsonism
later, he told Reuters Health by phone.
People with migraines with aura tend
to be at increased risk of stroke, and some
types of Parkinsonism are also related to
stroke or stroke risk, but based on these
results, stroke doesn t explain the con-
nection, Scher said.
"We don t think it s the medications
they re taking either," she said.
It could be that people with migraines
and Parkinson s may share a genetic trait
that explains the connection, or it may be
that those with migraines tend to have
experienced more head injuries, which may
then increase Parkinson s risk, she said.
Past studies have linked migraine with
movement disorders like Parkinson's.
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