Most of us have headaches once in a while. If you have a headache more often that you don’t have one, you may be experiencing migraines or chronic daily headaches. Sometimes migraines are caused by changes in hormone levels in your body. Have you ever noticed migraines that hit you right before you start your period? If these headaches happen to you, you may be suffering from menstrual migraines.
What Causes Menstrual Migraines?
Headaches and Migraines in women are sometimes tied to shifts in your estrogen levels. Your estrogen levels frequently drop before the start of your menstrual cycle.
Migraines usually stop during pregnancy, especially if they are linked to your period. You may also get headaches during your first trimester, only to have them go away after the third month of your pregnancy. Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapies during menopause can sometimes trigger migraines. Birth control pills with low doses of estrogen and progesterone cause fewer side effects and migraines.
Diagnosing Menstrual Migraines
After your doctor examines you for signs of illness, infection, and neurological problems, they will ask about your history with headaches. Be prepared to answer about the quality of your headaches, your pain and discomfort levels, how frequently they occur and how long they have been an issue in your life. If your doctor is uncertain about the cause of your headaches, they may order imaging tests. A CT scan or an MRI will help your doctor locate an underlying medical condition that could be triggering your migraines.
Treating Menstrual Migraines
Different drugs can help treat menstrual migraines. These drugs include:
NSAIDS: Available over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are the most frequently used drugs to stop a menstrual migraine. The NSAIDS used most often are Ibuprofen, fenoprofen calcium, and nabumetone. Beginning NSAIDS about two days before your period is the regimen recommended by most doctors.
Other prescription drugs used to treat menstrual migraines are:
- Anti-Convulsants: Drugs used in the treatment of epileptic seizures, mood stabilization, and neuropathic pain. Examples of anticonvulsants include divalproex sodium and valproate.
- Beta-Blockers: A type of drug that is usually used to treat cardiac arrhythmias. An example is the drug propranolol.
- Calcium Channel Blockers: These drugs disrupt the movement of calcium through calcium channels in your body. An example of this drug is verapamil.
- Ergotamine Drugs: This drug is used in small doses. It works by narrowing blood vessels in your brain, which helps to relieve pressure caused by migraine headaches. Examples of ergotamine drugs include Bellergal-s, Migranal, and Cafergot.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture is known to prevent headaches and assist relaxation.
- Applying Ice: Holding a cold cloth or ice pack to the painful area on your head and neck may reduce pain from a menstrual migraine. Make sure the ice pack is wrapped in a towel to protect your skin.
- Biofeedback: You can improve your headaches using biofeedback technology. This technology helps you monitor how your body is responding to stressors.
- Lifestyle Changes: Making lifestyle changes are important in the treatment of migraines. Getting regular exercises can reduce stress as well as the frequency, length, and severity of your migraines.
Your doctor may suggest taking a diuretic during your period, and limiting how much salt you eat before your period starts. If you can’t find relief with these drugs or approaches, your doctor may suggest a drug that affects your hormone levels, such as leuprolide acetate.
If you are pregnant, you need to avoid migraine treatments during your pregnancy. Not only can these drugs affect your uterus, but they may also influence the health of your baby. A mild pain-relieving drug like Tylenol may be used, but make sure you discuss the safety of any drug you want to take with your doctor first.
For many women, their migraines get a lot better once their period has stopped. If you are taking estrogen replacement therapy and your migraines worsen, your doctor may lower your dose or prescribe it in a different form. There is also a possibility that your doctor will have you stop the estrogen replacement drugs altogether. An estrogen patch such as Estraderm can help keep your estrogen levels even and may be less likely to make your migraines worse.
Every woman responds uniquely to different hormones. Some women are more sensitive to their effects. If you are suffering from headaches that are preventing you from your daily activities, working, resting, or enjoying your free time and personal life, ask your doctor for help. Together you will determine which treatment plan is right for you.
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