Female migraine sufferers beware. The frequency of migraine attacks increases during menopausal transition. This is according to what a team of researchers reported at the recent 56th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society.
Menopause generally occurs around the age of 51, according to the North American Menopause Society. During this time, a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle ends, and she loses the ability have children. The ovaries are less functional, and this results in a change in hormone levels.
The transition to menopause occurs in three stages.
- The first stage is called perimenopause. This is when the menstrual cycle becomes irregular.
- The second stage is menopause, which occurs when a woman has her last menstrual period.
- It is confirmed when a woman has had no menstrual periods for at least one year that she has entered postmenopause.
Menopause is a natural event, but it can be induced by surgery, treatment or disease. Each woman’s experience with this transitional period is different.
Researchers who were conducting their study on behalf of the American Migraine Prevalence Prevention found the frequency of the migraine attacks were higher in the women during perimenopause and menopause compared to premenopause.
They reached this finding by mailing out a questionnaire survey to 120,000 U.S. households that were selected to be representative of the U.S. population. They focused on women suffering from migraines between the ages of 35 and 65 years old, which brought the number of eligible women down to 3,603. The mean age for these women was 45. The researchers grouped the women based on how often they experienced a migraine, for instance, 10 or more days each month or less than 10 days. Suffering headaches for 10 or more days within a month was between 50 and 60 percent more common among perimenopausal and menopausal women.
“We believe that both declining estrogen levels that occur at the time of menstruation as well as low estrogen levels that are encountered during the menopause are triggers of migraine in some woman,” said Richard B. Liptom, M.D., professor of Neurology and director of Montefiore Headache Center at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
The study’s researchers hope their discovery will encourage the development of migraine treatments specific to this transitional period in a woman’s life.
In the meantime, the Mayo Clinic suggests that you can reduce the frequency of migraines by exercising, getting enough sleep, avoiding stress and staying away from foods that trigger migraines like cheese, chocolate and beverages containing caffeine. According to the Medscape article, simple painkillers like acetaminophen or NSAIDs can effectively treat the migraine when administered within 15 minutes of its onset.