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Hot Flashes, Power Surges and Headaches: Migraines and Menopause

Posted by Migraine Relief Center on Oct 21, 2014 7:00:00 AM

If you are a woman who deals with migraines, there are a few things that you should know about as you approach menopause. First, let's take a look at some elucidating facts: 

Out of nearly 30 million Americans who suffer from some type of migraine condition, 70 percent are women. The great majority of women in the United States who suffer from migraines will still experience them as they enter midlife, which is a very complex stage of life.

About half of all women who live with migraines believe that their headache episodes are connected to their menstrual cycles. This makes sense insofar as a migraine being caused by biochemical changes. For example, that time frame occurring just before you get your period is ruled by a sharp reduction in estrogen levels, which have been proven to trigger migraines. If you are not among the 50 percent of female migraine patients who experience episodes just before their periods, you can consider yourself fortunate to a certain extent.

Understanding Menopause

Menstrual cycles and hormonal changes are a powerful reminder of women's gift of fertility, which does not last forever. As women turn 40 years old, their fertility levels will begin to wane and their periods will become irregular. This is midlife, but it is not menopause quite yet.

Perimenopause begins when infrequent menstrual periods become more common. Some women may go through this in their early 30s, and it can be nerve-wracking for those who have postponed having children. If you are familiar with the expression “my biological clock is ticking,” then you can understand why some women refer to their biological clock as ringing very loud alarm bells during perimenopause. You can imagine how women who suffer from migraines might feel upon learning that they are entering midlife and have yet to get pregnant. In this case, migraine episodes are likely to occur.

Menopause is the full stop of the menstrual period, and it could happen anywhere between 50 and 60 years of age. This means that many women could go through hormonal changes and infrequent periods of fertility for as long as 30 years. Let's remember that half of all women with chronic migraines report that their periods will trigger a headache episode; does this mean that their condition will improve as they get less periods? Not exactly.

Medical research studies that have investigated the relation between menopause and migraines indicate that:
  • 45 percent of women report an exacerbation of their migraine condition from perimenopause to menopause
  • 30 to 40 percent report feeling the same
  • Only 15 percent report feeling better
Even when menopause can be clinically proven, hormonal changes may remain for a few more years and trigger more episodes due to the prevalence of symptoms such as hot flashes, which confident women refer to as “power surges.”

Treating Menopause along with Migraines

Estrogen is a very significant hormone that can influence the physiological and psychological well-being of women. A healthy emotional state from perimenopause until the full stop of the menstrual cycle is essential for women who are also affected by migraines. Women who feel that their fertility defines their femininity may become agitated and experience a greater incidence of migraine episodes.

In recent years, hormone replacement therapy has emerged as a treatment for the unpleasant hot flashes and uncomfortable night sweats that some women go through before menopause. There is no supportive research with regard to hormone replacement being beneficial to women who suffer from migraines; on the contrary, some women feel that this treatment causes more migraine episodes and prefer to deal with the hot flashes.

Some medications commonly prescribed for the treatment of migraines as a vascular condition will actually help women who are going through menopause, and the same goes for herbal medicines recommended by some physicians. Managing the migraine condition with a prevention strategy will go a long way in providing comfort to women in their perimenopause stage, and this can be explained in terms of reducing anxiety.

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Topics: Migraine

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