How are hormones related to headaches?
There are some true health benefits to being a woman, but not when it comes to headaches, especially migraines. Fortunately, aid is available.
People get headaches for a variety of reasons, including age and family history. But women frequently observe a connection between headaches and hormonal fluctuations.
The hormones progesterone (pro-jes-tuh-rohn) and oestrogen (es-truh-jen), which are important for controlling the menstrual cycle and pregnancy, can also have an impact on the chemicals in the brain that are associated to headaches. While oestrogen levels that fluctuate or plummet may worsen headaches, oestrogen levels that remain stable may help. You are not entirely at the whim of your hormones, even though fluctuating hormone levels might affect headache patterns. Hormone-related headaches can be treated or avoided with the assistance of your doctor.
Headaches may be caused by the decline in oestrogen right before your period. Many migraine sufferers report having headaches before or during their periods.
There are numerous strategies to relieve migraines brought on by your period. Menstrual migraines can frequently be treated using tried-and-true migraine medications. They consist of:
Ice: Apply an ice pack or a cold towel to the sore spot on your head or neck. To protect your skin, enclose the ice pack with a towel.
Relaxation techniques: To reduce stress, try relaxation exercises.
Biofeedback: By enabling you to track how your body reacts to stress, biofeedback may help you reduce your headaches.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture may lessen your headaches and promote relaxation.
Non-prescription painkillers: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as naproxen sodium (Aleve) or ibuprofen, may be prescribed by your doctor (Advil, Motrin IB, others). Soon after the onset of your headache, these drugs may help you feel better.
- Triptans: These drugs that stop the brain from receiving pain signals may be recommended by your doctor. Triptans frequently assist control of vomiting and provide pain relief from headaches within two hours.
- Gepants: Your doctor might recommend a drug from this more recent class. Antagonizers of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) are efficient migraine treatments.
- Other painkillers on prescription: Your doctor may occasionally recommend additional prescription painkillers like dihydroergotamine (D.H.E. 45, Migranal). Triptans cannot be taken with these.
Estrogen levels may vary
Many women who are of reproductive age experience menstruation. Your body’s oestrogen levels change during those periods. At specific times in your life, these fluctuations in oestrogen may play a role in the development of migraine symptoms.
Migraine during your periods
More than two-thirds of women who have migraines experience symptoms before or during their periods, according to the American Migraine Foundation. This may be related to the reduction in oestrogen levels before the onset of menstruation.
According to a 2016 study, women with a history of migraine may experience a quicker reduction in oestrogen levels before menstruation than those without such a history.
Pregnancy-related hormonal changes can potentially have an impact on migraine symptoms. The amount of oestrogen in your body will increase if you get pregnant and stay high throughout your second and third trimesters. This might lessen how frequently you get pregnant-related migraine symptoms.
Your oestrogen levels will fall after giving birth, and you could get postpartum migraines.
In the perimenopausal years, which precede menopause, hormone levels also change.
You can encounter migraine symptoms that are more frequent or severe than usual during perimenopause. The frequency and severity of migraine symptoms frequently decrease after menopause. Your symptoms may be impacted by hormonal birth control. Consult your doctor if you have a history of migraines to learn whether hormonal birth control can affect your symptoms.
Estrogen is present in a variety of hormonal birth control methods, including combination birth control pills.
After starting to use hormonal birth control, some women begin to have migraine symptoms. Others who use hormonal birth control report fewer or milder side effects. If you use combination birth control tablets, maintaining an extended- or continuous-cycle plan may be beneficial. Many combination medication packages have 21 active pills and 7 placebo pills.
In an extended- or continuous-cycle regimen, the active medications are taken continuously while the placebo medications are skipped. This will lessen the amount that your oestrogen levels fall and stop migraine symptoms.
Reduce your placebo-interval time
choose birth control methods that have lower oestrogen dosages use a “minipill” that only includes progestin during the placebo interval wear an oestrogen skin patch
You can learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy from your doctor.
Replacement hormone therapy may be beneficial
Your doctor could advise hormone replacement therapy if you experience migraine symptoms while going through perimenopause (HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)). Your doctor will give oral medicines, skin patches, or gels during HRT that contain estradiol, a kind of oestrogen.
Your oestrogen levels may be stabilized with the help of this therapy, which may lessen migraine symptoms. HRT, however, may potentially result in adverse effects.
To discover more about the potential advantages and disadvantages of HRT, consult your doctor.
Your doctor might suggest triptans or NSAIDs for preventive treatment if you frequently experience incapacitating headaches each month.
It can be most beneficial to start taking a preventative headache medication a few days before the start of your period and to keep taking it for up to two weeks after the period begins if your menstrual cycle is regular. Your doctor could advise taking preventive drugs daily if you experience headaches every month or have irregular periods.
Beta-blockers, anticonvulsants, calcium channel blockers, antidepressants, or magnesium may be taken daily. If other treatments are ineffective, your doctor may suggest monthly injections of a calcitonin gene-related peptide monoclonal antibody to help avoid your headaches. To decide which medications would be the most suitable for you, doctors will check any additional medical conditions you may have.
Changes in lifestyle, such as lessening stress, eating regularly, and exercising frequently, may also help lessen the frequency, duration, and severity of migraines.
Use of hormone contraception
Birth control pills, patches, and vaginal rings are examples of hormonal contraception options that may alter your headache patterns for the better or worse. By limiting the drop in oestrogen associated with the menstrual cycle, hormonal contraception may, in some women, help decrease the frequency and intensity of menstrual-related migraines.
For women who have not found relief from previous treatments and for those who do not get migraine with aura, hormonal contraception may be the best option for preventing menstrual-related headaches. Migraine with aura is characterized by sensory disturbances such as light flashes, blind patches, or other alterations in vision; tingling in the hand or face; and, in rare cases, aphasia or weakness on one side of the body.
The common recommendation is not to use estrogen-containing contraception if the woman has a migraine with aura. Ask your doctor about your alternatives for contraception if you suffer from migraines with aura.
While using hormonal contraception, other women may get migraines, albeit they may only happen during the first period. If that occurs to you, consult a doctor.
Useful advice regarding hormonal contraception:
- Use a birth control pill supply that has fewer placebo (inactive) days each month.
- By taking extended-cycle estrogen-progestin birth control tablets, you can fully eliminate the placebo days from most months. (Seasonique and Loseasonique.)
- To lessen the reduction in oestrogen during the placebo days, take birth control pills with a reduced oestrogen content.
- Take triptans and NSAIDs throughout the days of the placebo.
- During the days of the placebo, consume low-dose oestrogen tablets or use an oestrogen patch.
- If you use a birth control patch, wear an estrogen-containing skin patch during the placebo days.
- If you are unable to take estrogen-progestin birth control pills, take the mini pill. A birth control pill with only progestin, the minipill (Camila, Heather, others).
Can These Headaches Be Prevented?
In addition to preventive drugs, some healthy lifestyle adjustments may help prevent hormonal headaches. Focus on:
- A regular sleep routine involves going to bed and waking up at around the same time each day.
- Routine exercise (at least 30 minutes a day, three times a week)
- Having healthy hydration routines, such as consuming 8 cups of water every day
- Eating regularly throughout the day and avoiding meal skipping
- Stress reduction measures, such as meditation, may be used
- Avoiding foods that could be triggered, such as alcohol and chocolate
When to Visit a Physician
You do not require medical care if your PMS headaches are mild. However, it is necessary to consult a doctor if your hormone headaches are extremely painful, common, or interfere with your life. Make an appointment with your doctor or a headache specialist if you have had hormonal migraines for a while if:
- The migraine medicine you are taking is not working.
- have had more headaches lately.
- You get worse migraine symptoms.
- Another aspect of your headache changes, such as new symptoms or pain in a different place.
When to Seek Emergency Assistance
If you have a sudden, severe headache, call 911 or go to the emergency department, especially if you also experience any of these signs or symptoms:
- difficulty comprehending or speaking
- sudden visual issues
- difficulty walking
- a stiff neck, numbness, or paralysis on one side of the body
- high fever
This kind of headache may be a sign of meningitis, encephalitis, or a stroke, all of which are dangerous diseases that require immediate medical attention.
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