There’s been a lot of news coverage recently about Rep. Michelle Bachmann’s migraines. I don’t pretend to know what’s triggering these headaches in the 55-year-old presidential candidate’s case. However, her situation did make me start wondering whether there was a tie between menopause and these debilitating headaches.
First of all, let’s describe migraines. According to Women’sHealth.gov, which is a project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, migraine headaches feature an intense, throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head. The pain is usually felt in the temples or behind one eye or ear, although any part of the head can be involved. Some people report seeing spots or flashing lights, or temporarily lose their vision. The pain can last a few hours or up to two days. Some people suffer from migraines as often as twice a week, while others may only have them 1-2 a year.
Scientists are not sure what causes migraines, although many think these headaches are caused by abnormal changes in levels of substances naturally produced by the brain. There also may be a genetic link to migraines. However, a series certain triggers may lead to migraines. These include: sleep, skipped meals, loud noises, reactions to stress, weather changes, alcohol, caffeine, and foods with nitrates, MSG, tyramine or Aspartame. “Keeping a diary in which you write down what you eat and drink each day, and the circumstances in which you do so (like on the run), as well as environmental changes (noise, bright lights, changes in weather), may help you to link your headaches to possible causes,” Dr. Robin Phillips wrote in The Menopause Bible.
Women’shealth.gov also reported that menopause can be a factor in determining a migraine’s severity. “If your migraine headaches are closely linked to your menstrual cycle, menopause may make them less severe,” the website notes. “As you get older, the nausea and vomiting may decrease as well. About two-thirds of women with migraines report that their symptoms improve with menopause.” However, that’s not the case for every woman. For some, going through the stages of menopause worsens these headaches or triggers them to start. Menopausal hormone therapy also may play a factor in causing these migraines.
So what can you do to try to ease or prevent migraines? In The Cleveland Clinic’s Guide to Menopause, Dr. Holly Thacker, the director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Specialized Women’s Health, recommended the following:
- Be sure to eat three meals a day, including breakfast.
- Go to bed and wake up regularly at the same time, even on weekends.
- Develop hobbies and activities that allow you to relieve stress.
- Exercise regularly.
- Keep migraine medication on hand.
Dr. Thacker also noted that vitamins (magnesium with B-complex vitamins), beta blockers, non-steroidal drugs, abortive medications and biofeedback therapy may help in treating migraines.
There is good news, though! “In general, though, the worsening of migraine symptoms goes away once menopause is complete” Women’sHealth.gov reported. I’m sure for those who suffer from migraines, that can’t come a moment too soon!
Published On: July 25, 2011