Exactly how much of a role do hormones play in causing migraines
I suffered from typical menstrual migraines as a teenager and a little more frequent as a young adult. I have had four children and had no migraines during the pregnancies but after each child and as I get older they have increased to 8-10 headaches a month. I also had a hysterectomy 2 1/2 years ago. I recently read that a lack of progesterone could be a definite cause. Do you have any advice. FYI: Imitrex takes care of the headaches and I don’t seem to have rebound headaches because I may have a headache for four days in a row and then not for two weeks. Thank you very much, debiss.
First, let’s clarify the difference between the cause of Migraine disease and triggers of Migraine attacks. Migraine is a neurological disease cased by genetics and overly sensitive neurons in the brain. For more information, see Migraine - What Is It?
Triggers, on the other hand, are physical things that can bring on or “trigger” a Migraine attack when a Migraineur encounters them. They don’t necessarily always trigger a Migraine, and may be mild enough that they only trigger a Migraine when you encounter more than one of them. This is referred to as “cumulative” or “stackable” triggers.
Hormonal fluctuations are a very common Migraine trigger, and that includes the reproductive hormones – estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone (Yes, women have and need testosterone) – as well as other hormones including the endocrine hormones – thyroid, cortisol, etc.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help reduce the frequency and severity of Migraines, make them worse, or make no difference at all. It varies widely from one person to the next. There is no one answer, no one HTR medication that’s best for everyone.
How large a role hormone fluctuations play in triggering Migraines also varies from one person to the next. So, again, there is no one answer.
Your Migraines are frequent enough to warrant preventive therapy of some kind, be it HRT or Migraine preventive medications. Our best suggestion is to find a Migraine specialist to work with you and the doctor you see for OB/GYN care. There’s a link below to our directory of patient recommended Migraine and headache specialists.
John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert
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Last updated August 7, 2008.
Do you have questions about Migraine? Reader questions are answered by UCNS certified Migraine and headache specialist Dr. David Watson, and award-winning patient educator and advocate Teri Robert. Questions may be submitted via our submission form. Accepted questions will be answered by publishing the answers in our Ask the Clinician column. For an overview of how we can help and questions we can and can’t answer, please see Seeking Migraine and Headache Diagnoses and Medical Advice.