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Migraine Sufferers More Likely to Develop Serious Movement Disorders, Study Finds

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A new study published in the journal Neurology finds that people who suffer from migraines with aura are far more likely to develop movement disorders, like Parkinson’s disease, later in life than those who do not experience such migraines.

Migraines are very common among both men and women. But not as many people deal with migraines with aura, a special type of migraine that involves sufferers seeing flashing lights, zig-zagging lines, even brief loss of vision. According to the National Institutes of Health, only about one in three migraine sufferers experience the aura effect.

Now, a study from researchers in Iceland shows that men and women who experience migraines with aura are twice as likely to develop disorders that impede their physical abilities. The study involved 5,000 people aged 33 to 65. They were studied for a 25-year period and participated in regular interviews that included questions about migraines. Later, they discussed movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease and Restless Legs Syndrome.

The findings showed that there were clear links between migraines with aura and the onset of movement disorders later in life. Still, medical experts note that the study did not focus exclusively on Parkinson’s disease and should not be taken as proof that all migraine sufferers will develop serious movement disorders when they become older.

“The patients in this study were not carefully examined and definitely diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease,” noted Dr. Michael S. Okun, national medical director of the National Parkinson Foundation.

Still, Okun believes the study is important and hopes there will be more studies examining the connection between migraines and Parkinson’s. “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,” Okun said.

It’s worth noting that people who struggled with non-aura migraines were also more likely than non-migraine sufferers to develop movement disorders. However, their chances of developing problems like Parkinson’s disease were lower than people suffering from migraines with aura.

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