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History of headache disorders may increase hypothyroidism risk: study

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Cincinnati – People who suffer from headache disorders, such as migraines and cluster headaches, are at greater risk of developing hypothyroidism, according to a University of Cincinnati College of Medicine study.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism – a condition in which the thyroid gland is underactive – include weight gain, hair loss, fatigue and mood swings.

For the study, researchers gathered data from 8,412 people enrolled in the Fernald Medical Monitoring Program, a 20-year project that examined the health of residents living near a former uranium processing plant about 20 miles northwest of Cincinnati.

They found that residents living near the plant who had pre-existing migraine issues were at a 41 percent greater risk of developing new onset hypothyroidism. Previous sufferers of other headache disorders were at a 21 percent greater risk of developing the condition. Increasing age, obesity, female gender and hypothyroid-inducing medications also were associated with new onset hypothyroidism.

About 26 percent of residents had previous headache disorders, with hypothyroidism developing in approximately 7 percent of them. Researchers found no association between uranium exposure and thyroid disease.

“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,” Vincent Martin, a corresponding study author and UC Health physician, said in a press release. “Regardless, physicians should be more vigilant in testing for hypothyroidism in persons with headache disorders.”

The study was published Sept. 27 in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain.

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