Common Causes Of Migraine Headaches
Comments: 1 | August 11th, 2021
In the United States, migraines affect 39 million men, women and children.
Migraines affect 1 billion people worldwide.;
- Migraine is the 3rd most prevalent illness in the world.
- Migraine affects about 28 million women in the U.S.
- 85% of chronic migraine sufferers are women.
- 18% of American women, 6% of men, and 10% of children experience migraines.
- Migraine is most common between the ages of 18 and 44.
- Migraine tends to run in families. About 90% of migraine sufferers have a family history of migraine.
- Migraine is the 6th most disabling illness in the world.
- More than 4 million adults experience chronic daily migraine with at least 15 migraine days per month.
- More than 90% of sufferers are unable to work or function normally during their migraine.
Not another migraine!
Oh no, you feel another migraine coming on and theres nothing you can do to stop it.; Its time to lie down in a dark room, cover your eyes and wait it out.; You miss a couple of days of work, cant take your kids to their soccer game and or go to your friends birthday party.; You desperately want these to go away and never come back.
Migraines can be debilitating and they stop your life in its tracks. As you can see from the statistics, migraines are a big problem. You need to know about some very common causes of migraine headaches so that you can prevent and end them once and for all.
What is a Migraine?
Identify the Underlying Cause of Your Migraine
What Causes Period Migraines
A quick biology refresher for people with periods: Though most people only bleed for three to five days, your body goes through the menstrual cycle all month long. The levels of both estrogen and progesterone drop off sharply at the end of each monthly cycle, signaling to your body that its time to reset your cycle and begin your period. Dr. Lucky Sekhon, a New York City-based, board-certified OB-GYN and fertility specialist, tells Allure that migraines that show up two or three days before your period can be triggered by this steep hormone drop.
If you switched birth control and began to experience menstrual migraines shortly after, that switch may be the culprit. Its possible that a higher dose of estrogen in your birth control pills can make the hormone drop even steeper. Sometimes, all that is required to improve or prevent migraines is switching to a pill with a lower estrogen content, says Sekhon.
A 2013 literature review published in the Journal of Headache and Pain suggests that people who have migraines might even want to stick to progestin-only pills if they are going to use an oral contraceptive.
And menstrual migraines may be worse for people who are approaching menopause. ;
Period Problems You Shouldnt Ignore
As basically anyone who menstruates knows, certain period problems are just an unfortunate fact of life, like pain radiating through your midsection, a shorter fuse than usual , and bleeding more than you would like to be bleeding from your vagina.
On the flip side, some menstrual cycle problems are a clear sign that you should chat about whats going on with your doctorjust in casebecause they fall outside the bounds of whats normally expected during menstruation. Here are some period problems that are worth discussing with a medical expert.
Also Check: Can Sinus Infection Cause Migraine
Also Check: Can I Take Ibuprofen With Sumatriptan
Talk To Your Doctor About Birth Control
For someone women, birth control can help with menstrual headaches. For other women, it can actually cause the headaches. A lot can depend on you, your individual migraine triggers, and the type of hormonal birth control you take, says ob/gyn and womens health expert Sherry Ross, M.D., at Santa Monica Women’s Health.
Some women suffer migraines just before their period due to a drop in estrogen levels, she explains. Women in that situation who are on a combination pill can actually be helped by birth control because it keeps estrogen levels steady throughout their cycle. Combination pills contain synthetic versions of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone.
For other women, the combination pills can make migraines worse and more frequent. Combination pills are generally not recommended for migraine sufferers because a) they can make migraines worse and b) they can put you at an increased risk of having a stroke, says Jessica Shepherd, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology and director of minimally invasive gynecology at The University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago. Instead, doctors usually recommend a progestin pill or an IUD, she says.
If you suffer from migraines and suspect your period and/or birth control might be a factor, experts say its important to talk to your doctor. Together you can find a birth control method that works for youand keeps you headache-free.
What Causes Menstrual Migraines
Changes in sex hormones are associated with worsening headaches. From the start of a person’s first period, levels of the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone start to fluctuate on a monthly basis. This opens the door for hormone-induced migraines.
“Estrogen levels rapidly decline about five days before the onset of the period. That drop in estrogen is thought to trigger a menstrual migraine,” says Jelena Pavlovic, MD, PhD, a neurologist at Montefiore Medical Center.
Moreover, the MGH Center for Women’s Mental Health reports that while boys and girls have similar rates of getting migraines, the incidence increases dramatically for girls once they get their first period. Over time, adult women will outnumber men in recurring migraines by 3 to 1.
Recommended Reading: Migraine Earring
Treating A Menstrual Migraine
Common migraine treatments, such as holding an ice pack to your head, practicing relaxation exercises, and taking OTC pain relievers such as a combination of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine, can help relieve menstrual migraine symptoms.;2
If youre unsure about whether you are experiencing a migraine or if menstrual migraines are affecting your quality of life, you might benefit from a discussion with your doctor.
Headaches And Women: What Do Hormones Have To Do With It
A bad headache can ruin your workday, strain your relationship with family members and affect your ability to exercise. In the U.S., headaches cause 112 million sick days each year. While one-third of the population gets headaches, women suffer more than men do.
Changes in hormones could be among the reasons women have more headaches than men do.
These hormone-related headache triggers include:
Recommended Reading: Can Melatonin Cause Migraine Headaches
Natural Remedies For Migraines Before Period
It may be tempting to just pop a few Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen after an especially painful heavy period and headache, but you shouldnt rely on them to get you through. A few natural remedies for migraines before period include:
- Getting enough quality sleep
- Exercising on a regular basis especially stretching and yoga
- Learning breathing exercises to calm your mind and body
- Drinking at least seven to eight 8oz glasses per day
- Limiting alcohol intake, which can dehydrate your body
- Avoiding foods that have histamine and are considered to be inflammatory
However, its important to understand that these natural remedies for migraines before period cycles are all temporary fixes. You need to get an accurate diagnosis to understand the underlying issue causing your chronic migraines and anemia brain fog.
What Are Rebound Migraines
Women who use acute pain-relief medicine more than two or three times a week or more than 10 days out of the month can set off a cycle called rebound. As each dose of medicine wears off, the pain comes back, leading the patient to take even more. This overuse causes your medicine to stop helping your pain and actually start causing headaches. Rebound headaches can occur with both over-the-counter and prescription pain-relief medicines. They can also occur whether you take them for headache or for another type of pain. Talk to your doctor if youre caught in a rebound cycle.
Recommended Reading: How Do You Stop Migraine Auras
What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider About Menstrual Migraines
- Am I experiencing a menstrual migraine or another type of migraine?
- Should I change any of the medications Im taking?
- What treatment do you recommend?
- What medications should I take?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A migraine is more than a bad headache. Not only can menstrual migraines get severe, but women have reported that they can be even worse than a migraine that occurs when theyre not on their period. Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms. There are preventative measures and treatment options. A menstrual migraine might not be something you just have to live with every month.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/03/2021.
What Can I Do To Help Myself
Most women with migraine can manage menstrual attacks in the same way as non menstrual migraine. Keeping diaries can help you anticipate when your period is due.
Look especially at the non-hormonal migraine triggers as avoiding these pre-menstrually may be sufficient to prevent what appears to be a hormonally linked attack.
For example, take care not to get over tired and, if necessary cut out alcohol. Eat small, frequent snacks to keep blood sugar levels up as missing meals or going too long without food can trigger attacks. Treat an attack with your usual medication and dont delay treatment is more effective the earlier it is taken. If the migraine attack returns later the same day or the next day, repeat the treatment. This can sometimes go on for four or five days around period time.
Read Also: How Can I Get Rid Of A Bad Migraine
Are Migraines Affecting Your Quality Of Life
Most women with menstrual migraines are able to manage their symptoms and make simple lifestyle adjustments to help decrease the frequency and severity of attacks. But if your migraines are really affecting you, are worsening or you are developing any other symptoms, please talk with your GP for advice.
Should I Have An Hysterectomy
All research points to the fact that hysterectomy worsens migraine. The menstrual cycle is controlled by the brain, which sends messages to the ovaries to stimulate the production of the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These in turn prepare the lining of the womb for a potential pregnancy. If a woman does not become pregnant, then the lining of the womb is shed at menstruation and the cycle starts over again. If the womb and ovaries are removed, the hormone cycle is disrupted and the brain hormones initially go into overdrive as they are not prepared for this early menopause. Migraine can worsen but generally settles again over the subsequent couple of years. Replacement estrogen can help lessen the symptoms following hysterectomy, particularly if the ovaries have been removed. Even when the ovaries are retained, the natural hormone cycle can be disrupted, so additional estrogen may be helpful.
Read Also: What Does A Vestibular Migraine Feel Like
When To See A Doctor
Nervous about visiting the doctor with period pains only to get a response of Its just a part of being female. Thatll be $500. ?To avoid an unnecessary trip, if your period headaches are mild, theres probably not much a doctor can do to help. But, if you have extreme nausea, vomiting, or if you cant go to work because youre in so much pain, you need to see your doc.
These headaches could have another more serious underlying cause. Even if they are just period headaches, the doctor may be able to prescribe something for your severe symptoms.
All in all, with some trial and error, you should be able to get your monthly head pain under control. When in doubt, consult your doctor. They can help you figure out a treatment plan that works.
Menstrual Migraine Is Tough To Treat
Menstrual and menstrually related migraine can be the hardest kind of migraine to treat. can be pretty severe, they can last several days, and they can be quite debilitating, she says.
Even if you have migraine attacks only around the time of your period, for many women that may still mean five days or more a month, says Hindiyeh. In that case, its really time to talk to your doctor about daily preventive treatment options for migraine, she says.
Generally speaking, there are many treatment options for the prevention of migraine and menstrual migraine, says Hindiyeh. Heres a rundown of top medications and lifestyle modifications that can help reduce the frequency and severity of menstrual and menstrually related migraine attacks.
Recommended Reading: How Long Do Migraines Last For
Treatment Options For Menstrual Migraine
There are several treatment options depending on the regularity of your menstrual cycle, whether or not you have painful or heavy periods, menopausal symptoms ;or if you also need contraception.
If you have regular periods your doctor may suggest taking medication for a few days around the time of menstruation .
There are different options available and your doctor should suggest the option that suits you. It could include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen or mefenamic acid, oestrogen supplements or triptans.
- Frovatriptan tablet
- Zolmitriptan tablet
It is possible that these treatments may delay the migraine attack rather than prevent it.
What Tests Are Used To Find Out If I Have Migraine
If you think you get migraine headaches, talk with your doctor. Before your appointment, write down:
Your doctor may also do an exam and ask more questions about your health history. This could include past head injury and sinus or dental problems. Your doctor may be able to diagnose migraine just from the information you provide.
You may get a blood test or other tests, such as CT scan or MRI, if your doctor thinks that something else is causing your headaches. Work with your doctor to decide on the best tests for you.
Don’t Miss: How To Fake A Migraine To A Doctor
An Introduction To Periods And Headaches
Periods and headaches often go hand in hand. Many women just accept that this is a normal part of the menstrual cycle, but is this the case? And if so, why is it happening?
Headaches can occur for a number of reasons so it is important to try and determine how much influence your hormones are having. Try keeping a period symptoms diary, then after say 3 months, you can refer back to it and see if there is a pattern forming. If you find you have a headache 2 days before your period each month it suggests falling levels of hormones are likely to be the cause.
However, its not as simple as just oestrogen and progesterone exerting their effects as we touch on in the next section there may be other players involved!
Menstrual headaches can be severe they can impact on your life, they can last for several days and they are often accompanied with other unpleasant symptoms such as sensitivity to light or nausea.
On this page I discuss how menstrual periods could be causing your headaches and how diet, lifestyle, herbal remedies and conventional treatments can help. However, if your headaches are severe or unexplained, it is advised you pay a visit to your GP.
Hormones And Head Pain: Whats The Deal
As with most things period related, hormones are to blame. Before your period, estrogen and progesterone levels rise. Then, those levels come crashing down as a signal to your uterus to let that lining go.
This fall in estrogen can trigger headaches. Since birth control regulates this hormonal roller coaster, for some people it can decrease period headaches. For many, birth control makes period headaches worse.
If you have a NuvaRing, headaches during periods are even more common.
Pro tip: If youre already prone to migraines, you should not use the NuvaRing, as it increases your chances of blood clots and continued headaches.
If youre on a hormonal pill based birth control, sometimes skipping the placebo week can get rid of period headaches .
If you noticed your headaches got much worse after starting hormonal birth control, talk to your doctor. You may need to switch pills or your method of birth control to keep headaches at bay.
Though hormones are a background cause of all period headaches, there are four types of menstrual brain pain that are all slightly different.
Recommended Reading: Do Edibles Help With Migraines
Is It Common To Get Migraines Before Your Period
I get migraines a few days before my period starts. Is it common to have migraines as part of PMS? Alaire*
Yes. Lots of women who;have migraines get them as part of their PMS symptoms. Doctors believe that changing hormone levels are to blame for this type of headache, which is known as a menstrual migraine.
Take some steps to try to stop these headaches so you feel better. You could start by taking an over-the-counter medicine like ibuprofen to see if that works. If you often get headaches near your period, try taking the medicine for a few days around that time, even if your headaches haven’t started yet. Doing this might help you avoid getting a headache. Getting enough sleep, not skipping meals, exercising regularly, and managing stress are other ways to help prevent headaches.
If a headache does come on, sometimes a cool cloth or ice pack wrapped in a towel can help. You can also try lying down in a quiet, dark room.
If these things don’t work for you, or if your headaches are severe enough that you miss school or other activities, talk to your doctor. He or she;may recommend a prescription medicine or refer you to a headache expert.
*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.