Of the 28 million Americans who suffer from migraine headaches, women make up 70% of those patients. Also, about 40% of women will experience a migraine at least once by the time they reach menopause. What’s worse, more than half of women with migraines notice their migraines change during menopause, most of them reporting that they happen more often and feel more intense. In some cases, this may be due to fluctuations in estrogen levels, which hormone replacement treatment may be able to help.
First, it’s important to understand the difference between a headache and a migraine. A headache is pain or pressure in your head. Headaches usually affect both sides of your head. A migraine generally has more severe head pains and also has other symptoms. Some symptoms of a migraine include:
In addition, some people experience migraine with an aura. This usually includes visual disturbances like seeing bright flashes, shimmering spots, blind spots, or zig zagging lines.
You may be wondering if hormone replacement treatment is safe to take if you have migraines. It’s a common misconception that you can’t use bioidentical hormones if you have migraines. Some women shouldn’t take combined estrogen and progesterone oral contraceptives if they have migraines with aura. Experiencing migraines with aura slightly increases your risk for strokes, and taking certain types of birth control pills can make this stroke even worse. This is usually the source for the misconception that hormones are unsafe for women with migraines.
Actually, studies show that women’s hormone care is safe for women who experience migraines. One study looked at 85,000 U.S. women and found no evidence of an increased risk of heart attack or stroke for women with a history of migraines. Additionally, some women notice that hormone replacement treatment actually helps their migraines, especially if they get worse leading up to the transition into menopause.
Many women notice that their migraines get worse during and after menopause. This is especially true of the 70% of women who have migraines associated with their menstrual cycle. Migraine headaches may have several triggers, including hormone changes and other issues that tend to occur and get worse during menopause.
Women may experience migraines due to hormone fluctuations. For example, during the beginning of their period or during and after menopause when hormone levels fluctuate and decline. Hormone injections may help reduce menopausal migraines by helping keep your hormones in balance.
Why would hormones have such an effect on migraines? While the exact cause of migraines is still debated, many researchers believe that they are caused by changes in brain chemical levels, possible serotonin levels. They believe that these changes can cause the blood vessels in your brain to swell and push up against nerves that cause the migraine. Estrogen may play a role in this because it is thought to help increase serotonin levels and serotonin receptors in your brain. However, as we age, estrogen in our bodies start to fluctuate and gradually decline, which can cause the more commonly known menopause symptoms like hot flashes and mood changes. Hormone replacement treatment may help with these symptoms and may also help prevent fluctuations that may cause migraines.
In addition, there are many other things that may happen during menopause that can trigger migraine headaches. For example, many women notice that their migraines are associated with hot flashes and night sweats during perimenopause. Women’s hormone care may help reduce the frequency of your hot flashes which, in turn, may also help reduce how many migraines you experience.
Also, some other common triggers of migraines during menopause include lack of sleep and stress. Many women experience more of these issues because of physical, emotional, and social changes during menopause. Night sweats may make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. You may feel more stressed because of mood changes and other menopause symptoms. In some cases, relieving these symptoms can also help with migraines.
A recent study linked migraines during menopause to hormone fluctuations. The women in the study who experienced worsening migraines also experienced greater changes in hormones, namely, a more significant drop in estrogen. Rapid or large changes in hormone levels may lead to migraine headaches. The goal of hormone replacement treatment is to help boost hormone levels up to healthy ranges and also help reduce fluctuations. Therefore, some women do notice that their migraines improve after starting on hormone medications for menopause. Additionally, hormone replacement treatment may help reduce night sweats and other symptoms that may be triggering your migraines. While hormone replacement treatment is not a treatment for migraines, women who begin therapy for hot flashes and other menopause symptoms may also experience migraine relief.
Women’s hormone care is different for everyone, so not everyone will notice this effect. It’s important to talk to one of our providers about your symptoms to find personalized treatment plans for both menopause symptoms and migraines. For example, other underlying conditions can cause migraines during menopause, such as vitamin D deficiency. Our team is here to help you find solutions for your symptoms.
At HerKare, our goal is to provide you with the quality, compassionate care you deserve. As an advanced women’s health clinic, we offer treatment solutions for women at every stage of life. Whether you need general women’s wellness care or testosterone replacement therapy for menopause symptoms, we are here to help you feel better. Our physicians take the time to listen and understand to help create treatment plans tailored to you. We also provide advanced treatment monitoring to help you optimize your treatment and help you reduce your risk for serious preventable diseases. Book an appointment today for a health assessment to discuss your symptoms and overall wellness.