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The Relationship Between Migraines and Hormones

For many women who don’t pay attention to the calendar for predicting when their menstrual cycle will start, they get an obvious reminder. Two days before their period they are hit with a throbbing migraine. This is the relationship between migraines and hormones. We will explain.

Woman laying down with migraine.

Hormones Are Powerful

Hormones send chemical messages to our body, and according to the Cleveland Clinic a migraine headache is a neurologic disease. A drop in estrogen causes migraine headaches and this occurs every month right before a woman’s period. Estrogen and progesterone, which regulate the menstrual cycle, can affect the chemicals in the brain to bring on migraine headaches.

When estrogen levels change and fluctuate, the headache can become worse. Two out of three women who get migraines report they are especially severe, it happens just before their period, they seem to last longer, and cause greater light sensitivity.

Symptoms of Migraines

Maybe you aren’t aware that those throbbing headaches you get at the beginning of your period are actually migraines.

Common symptoms of migraines include the following:

  • Lasts 4 to 72 hours
  • Includes throbbing, pulsing pain, nausea, fatigue, and dizziness
  • Spots or zig zags appear in vision (15-25%)
  • Pain on one side only (15% on both sides)
  • Gets worse with physical activity
  • Sensitivity to lights, sounds, and smells

Treatments for Migraines

Unfortunately, migraines will often not respond to normal medications and using too many over-the-counter medications may lead to more migraines, a condition called medication overuse headache.  To better help you, Puget Sound Neurology may prescribe a triptan. This is a drug that does not prevent headaches, but can help once they start. It is available as an oral tablet, nasal spray, and injection.

Triptan drugs work like a chemical in your brain, namely serotonin. It reverses the changes in your brain that caused the migraine. Your physician may also prescribe a drug which combines triptan and NSAIDS which can work within 2 hours.

If triptans don’t work for you, Puget Sound Neurology may also prescribe newer medications called gepants. These work by blocking a protein called CGRP that is released in the brain during a migraine attack and is thought to be responsible for many of the symptoms associated with migraines. 

Puget Sound Neurology may also prescribe prevention treatments to use daily, or just around the time of your period to reduce the impact of menstrual migraine.

Lifestyle Changes That May Reduce Migraines

In addition to the onset of your period, other triggers can include, dietary triggers, weather changes, alcohol and stress. Keep a food journal to learn which foods may lead to your migraines. Limit caffeine, drink lots of water to stay hydrated, and get quality sleep. Get regular exercise. Physical therapy or massage therapy on your neck and shoulders may also help reduce headaches.

Contact Puget Sound Neurology at (253) 284-4488 if you are experiencing migraine before and during your menstrual cycle and can’t find relief.

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