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People Living With Headache Disorders Have Increased Risk for Thyroid Condition

There is yet another condition for which those with migraine and other headache disorders have an increased risk.  According to a study by the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine researchers, people living with headache disorders are at a greater risk for developing hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism occurs when the body cannot produce enough thyroid hormone, which causes the individual to experience mood swings, weight gain, hair loss, fatigue, constipation, and irregular menstrual cycles, according to a press release.

The study looked at more than 8,000 patients enrolled in a medical monitoring project designed to examine health outcomes of residents near a former uranium processing plant in Crosby Township, Ohio, outside of Cincinnati. Researchers found residents in the area with pre-existing headache disorders had a 21 percent increased risk of developing new-onset hypothyroidism. Those with possible migraine showed an increased risk of 41 percent.

“We have a very large sample size and we have measurements of thyroid hormones at different time points throughout the study,” said Andrew Martin, lead author and fourth-year medical student at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

“It is a much stronger study than studies just looking at the association at one point in time. We followed these persons for 12 years on average.”

There are several reasons that may explain the association between headache and hypothyroidism, according to Martin. Proposed reasons include stress and the activation of the immune system.

“It is possible that the development of hypothyroidism in a headache patient might further increase the frequency of headache as past studies have found that treatment of hypothyroidism reduces the frequency of headache,” said Vincent Martin, MD, another researcher involved in the study and President of the National Headache Foundation. “Regardless, physicians should be more vigilant in testing for hypothyroidism in persons with headache disorders.”

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