Patients with Migraines May Have Increased Risk of Movement Disorders

(HealthDay News) — Patients that suffer from migraine may show increased odds of developing symptoms or being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease or other movement disorders like Restless Legs Syndrome, according to a localized study of Icelandic people published online in Neurology.

Ann I. Scher, PhD, from the Uniformed Services University, Bethesda, Md., and colleagues reviewed records of more than 5,600 Icelandic people aged 33 to 65 who were tracked for 25 years. At the study’s start, about 4,000 participants had no headaches, with 1,028 suffering non-migraine headaches, 238 migraine with no aura, and 430 migraine with aura. In later life, participants were asked whether they’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s or experienced symptoms, had a family history of Parkinson’s, or had symptoms of restless legs syndrome.

The findings showed that those with migraine with aura at midlife were more than twice as likely ([ORMA = 2.5 [95% CI 1.2–5.2]) to have been later diagnosed with Parkinson’s than people with no headaches. Those with migraine with aura were 3.6 times as likely to report four of six parkinsonian symptoms, while those with migraine with no aura were 2.3 times more likely. Overall, the study found nearly 20% of those with migraine with aura had symptoms, compared to 12.6% of those with migraine with no aura and 7.5% of those with no headaches.

Talking to Healthday, Michael Okun, MD, national medical director of the National Parkinson Foundation, called the new research “interesting,” but he said it had several notable weaknesses, including that its participants were only from the Icelandic region and that some patients reporting Parkinson’s symptoms had not been formally diagnosed with the disorder.

“The idea that a history of migraine headaches has something to do with Parkinson’s is intriguing, but there’s not a lot of scientific data right now that would support that notion. I’d be extremely cautious to conclude that migraine is associated with Parkinson’s.”

The researchers concluded that while the findings suggest that there may be a common vulnerability to or consequence of migraine in relation to indicators of Parkinson’s or other movement disorders, additional genetic and observational studies are needed to identify candidate pathways.


  1. Scher AI, et al. Neurology. 2014;doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000000840