What is Migraine?
A migraine headache is characterised by a persistent throbbing unilateral headache commonly accompanied by nausea, vomiting and photo phobia (light sensitivity). It is more common in women than in men and often related to hormonal changes.
More than half of the migraine sufferers experience irritability, hunger, neck stiffness, depression, euphoria and increase yawning. Around 25% of them may experience visual, sensory, verbal or motor aura.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is an end of the menstrual cycle in a woman’s life. Menopause occurs during 40 or 50s of a female, with the average age of Australian women around 51. During menopause hormonal changes occur and in the first few years, ovaries will reduce their production of the essential female hormones namely estrogen and progesterone, eventually cease release of eggs and menstrual period.
Menopause symptoms mostly associated with the drop in female hormones and many women find it hard to deal with them.
Connection between Migraine, Female Hormones and Menopause:
Headaches are frequently reported by women around the time of their menstrual periods. It typically represents the symptoms of a migraine and starts somewhere around a couple of days before or after the start of menstruation. As the estrogen levels drop dramatically before menstruation, it is believed that migraine headaches are related with the female hormone estrogen.
Likewise, Migraine headaches improve for most of the pregnant women as estrogen level remains constantly elevated during pregnancy. However, the Post-partum decline in estrogen level does trigger migraine headaches.
During pre and peri-menopause, migraine may trigger more frequently and become more severe due to fluctuation in estrogen levels. However, it may improve post menopause.
Signs and Symptoms of hormonal migraine headache:
- They are typically similar to the migraine headaches but more disabling than non-hormonal migraine headaches.
- The onset of headaches a few days around or during menstruation is a classic sign of a hormonal headache.
- Keeping a headache diary to record headaches over the menstrual cycle is the best way to figure out hormonal headaches. It also helps to determine correct treatment and measures for a migraine headache as it differs from the treatment of a non-hormonal migraine headache.
- Apart from it, the frequent occurrence of headaches and severe intensity during pre and perimenopause also suggestive of hormonal headaches.
Way to prevent and manage hormonal headaches:
- Stay well hydrated – Drink plenty of water and eat small but frequent meals (snack size) to keep sugar levels up.
- Avoid Stress – Avoid if not then reduce the amount of stress. It certainly helps to decrease the frequency of hormonal headaches. Try relaxation techniques such as meditation, the daily breather.
- Stay in a dark and quiet place.
Treatment for hormonal headaches:
- NSAIDs: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen can help to reduce the intensity of the symptoms. Paracetamol can be taken in conjunction with NSAIDs.
- Prescription medications: Medication prescribed by healthcare professionals to treat migraine attacks.
- HRT: sustaining hormone levels by taking hormone replacement therapy can help reduce the frequency and intensity of hormonal headaches.
Apart from these, there are many ways to treat hormonal headaches. If your symptoms persist, you should consult your healthcare professional.
P.S. From preliminary finding, it is believed that hormonal headaches are related to the degree of fluctuation in estrogen hormone than the level of estrogen itself.