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What is a hormonal migraine?
Hormonal migraines typically affect women and are caused by changes in estrogen levels. Consequently, women experience more of these migraines around the time of their period. In fact, hormonal migraines are most likely to occur around two days before the start of menstruation. At that time, there is a significant drop in the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, which regulate the menstrual cycle.
Hormonal migraines may also occur frequently in women who take birth control pills. Although some birth control pills only contain a small amount of estrogen, many contain high levels of the hormone. Women taking contraceptive pills with large amounts of estrogen may experience hormonal migraines more frequently.
Hormonal migraines are also associated with menopause. However, the link is due to the hormone replacement therapy that may be prescribed to lessen uncomfortable symptoms, such as hot flashes and irritability.
Like other types of migraines, hormonal migraines are often treated with NSAIDs, such as naproxen or ibuprofen. However, other medicines, such as mefenamic acid and triptan, may also be used to treat the condition.
What can trigger a hormonal migraine?
Hormonal migraines are usually incited by fluctuations in estrogen levels. Here are a few triggers of the condition:
- Menses — Just before a menstrual cycle starts, estrogen levels drop. This decline may trigger a migraine.
- Perimenopause — Perimenopause is the period before menopause. Women transitioning to menopause may experience wide variations in hormone levels.
- Menopause — Once a woman no longer menstruates, she is menopausal. The hormones associated with menstruation are at lower levels during menopause. Although the hormones may be supplemented through medication, the supplementation can trigger hormonal migraines as side effects.
- Lack of Sleep — Regularly receiving too little sleep may cause changes in your hormones and subsequently trigger a hormonal migraine.
Menstruation and reproductive hormones may also be affected by other hormones, such as insulin. Thus, the ingestion of foods or substances, such as starch and simple sugars, that cause the release of a large amount of insulin may also trigger a hormonal migraine.
Also, chemicals added to food may trigger hormonal migraines. These include artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, and flavor enhancers, such as monosodium glutamate (MSG).
How many people are affected?
About 20 to 25 percent of women between 30 and 50 years of age who are still menstruating suffer from migraines. Additionally, about half of women who suffer from migraines experience them around the time of their menstrual cycle.
How do they affect most people?
Hormonal migraines have symptoms similar to other types of migraines. Women who suffer from the condition usually experience sensitivity to light and loud sounds. In addition, the hormonal migraines typically present as throbbing head pain that may be on one or both sides of the head. Also, hormonal migraine suffers may be plagued by episodes of vomiting and nausea.