As if migraine headaches weren’t bad enough: If you’re a sufferer, your risk nearly doubles for a condition that causes facial paralysis, reveals new research in the journal Neurology.
After keeping tabs on more than 100,000 people, half of whom were migraine sufferers, a team of Taiwanese researchers found rates of a nervous system condition called Bell’s palsy nearly doubled among the migraine afflicted. Bell’s palsy affects the nerves that control facial movements and muscles, the authors explain.
The study team says it’s not clear how migraines and Bell’s palsy are connected, although they speculate that inflammation, heart issues, or blood flow problems could link the two.
Unfortunately, migraine sufferers are also more likely to contend with some other serious health conditions:
Migraine sufferers—especially women—tend to grapple with depression at higher rates than non-sufferers, shows research from the University of Calgary. And while it makes sense that severe headaches would sour a woman’s mood, there’s evidence that the relationship works both ways; that is, depression may somehow contribute to the development of migraines, argues a study in Neurology. That suggests a biological link between the two conditions, the Neurology authors says.
If your migraine headaches are accompanied by an aura (flashes of light or visual floaters), your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease more than doubles, shows research from the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, MD. That’s especially true if you suffer migraines in middle age. While the causes of migraine headaches are still being debated, the study authors say issues with the neurotransmitter dopamine may play a role. The study authors speculate that dopamine is also disrupted in people with Parkinson’s, which may explain the links.
Heart Disease and Stroke
Another Neurology study links migraines to an increased risk for both cardiovascular disease and stroke. Again, that link was especially strong among women who suffered migraines accompanied by an aura. (Your risk for stroke jumps up to 400% if you have migraines with an aura, the study found.) All three conditions seem to be tied up with changes in blood flow, which could explain the connections.