Menstrual Migraines – Do You Get Them?
Menstrual migraines affect only women and are quite debilitating. The migraines are affected by hormones fluctuating through the menstrual cycle. Women suffer from migraines 3 times more frequently then men and those which are controlled by hormones are classified as menstrual headaches. Menstrual headaches occur in 60 percent of all women who suffer from migraines.
Migraines are a complex problem that requires a significant amount of skill to diagnose and treat successfully. Women shouldn’t be satisfied with the first answer or even the second one but should seek out care until they are satisfied that their particular menstrual migraines are adequately treated.
Serotinin is involved in the trigger of many migraines. Some researchers believe there is also a genetic link in the way that people metabolize serotonin and then the way in which the hormone interacts with the female hormones.
The symptoms of menstrual migraines are similar to those of migraines. The headaches usually start on one side, are throbbing and accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to bright lights.
PMS headaches happen before a women’s period, not during it, and have symptoms which are different. Symptoms for PMS headaches include acne, fatigue, joint pain, increased urine output, constipation and possible lack of coordination. Women also feel a craving for chocolate, salt or alcohol.
Menstrual migraines are usually managed with the same treatments plans as those migraines that aren’t triggered by the cyclical hormonal changes in a woman’s body. Most sufferers will be treated with acute medications – those medications that treat the headache after the onset of symptoms. If the woman continues to have difficulties each month or the acute medications aren’t sufficient to manage the pain and disability, the doctor may add preventative medications to the treatment plan.
Medications that have been proven to make a difference in the acute treatment of migraines include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), dihydroergotamine (DHE), and a combination of aspirin, caffeine and acetaminphen (AAC).
If the doctor adds preventative medications to the treatment plan he may include naproxen, sumatriptan, triptan and DHE that is either nasal spray or injection. Sometimes these medications are given all month long and the dosage increased right before a woman’s period. At other times the medication is given for only 2 weeks out of the month. The plan is dependent upon achieving the goals of treatment – to decrease the pain and disability that results from the headache with the least amount of medical intervention necessary.
If standard preventative methods don’t work then hormonal therapies might be attempted. Approaches include using estrogen during menstruation or adding extra estrogen to a birth control pill pack.
Some researchers have found triggers of menstrual migraines to be foods high in tyramine, an amino acid found in cheeses; alcohol; and foods high in phenylethylamine which is found in chocolates. Researchers have also found that missed meals, late nights and sudden weather changes also contribute to menstrual migraine headaches.
Without being able to control the amount of hormones raging through a woman’s body she is able to control the external triggers of her headaches. By keeping a menstrual calendar a woman can identify triggers for her headaches as well as treatments that appear to work better than others. Using a menstrual calendar will help both the woman and her doctor.
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