Migraine headaches get worse as women approach menopause, so says a new study from the University of Cincinnati , Montefiore Headache Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Vedanta Research.
“Women have been telling doctors that their migraine headaches worsen around menopause and now we have proof they were right,” says Vincent Martin, MD, professor of internal medicine in UC’s Division of General Internal Medicine.
The risk for experiencing more than 10 days with headache per month increased by 60% in middle-aged women with migraine during the perimenopause, which is the time prior to menopause when women experience irregular menstrual cycles.
The researchers studied 3,664 women aged 35 to 65 who experienced migraine before and during their menopausal years, which included perimenopause and menopause. Women who participated in the study reported that migraines increased 76% during menopause.
“Changes in female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone that occur during the perimenopause might trigger increased headaches during this time,” said Richard Lipton, MD, director, Montefiore Headache Center and professor and vice chair of neurology, and the Edwin S. Lowe Chair in Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
“Women as they get older develop lots of aches and pains, joints and back pain and it is possible their overuse of pain medications for headache and other conditions might actually drive an increase in headaches for the menopause group,” Dr. Martin said.
The study was published this week in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, a publication of the American Headache Society.
About 12 percent of the U.S. population experiences migraine. Common symptoms of migraine headaches include hot flashes, irritability, depression and insomnia.
For women approaching menopause and suffering from migraine there is help, explains Jelena Pavlovic, MD, PhD, co-author of the study.
“Physicians can prescribe hormonal therapies that level out these changes that occur during the perimenopause and menopause time periods,” says Pavlovic. “If the patient is in early perimenopause, you can give birth control pills that level things out. If they are in the late perimenopause and they start skipping periods, they can be put on estrogen patches.”