Headaches
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Headaches

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Symptoms of Headaches

Headaches during menopause can incapacitate women who experience them. For instance in the case of migraine headaches, the pain generally comes on slowly in one side of the head, builds, and begins to pulsate and throb. Women who suffer from headaches of this nature can have difficulty accomplishing the routine tasks of life while in the heat of a painful fit. Fortunately, women don't have to live with this debilitating yet common symptom of menopause.

Continue reading below to learn all about headaches; the types, causes, and treatment options.

While women may experience headaches in many forms, the experience is never the same for every woman. Types of headaches may vary, but there are basic standards that make them identifiable.

Generally speaking, a migraine headache is a recurrent, throbbing headache generally felt on one side of the head but it may possibly occur on both sides. It can last anywhere from one or two hours up to three days.

Many women entering perimenopause, the 5 to 10 years period leading up to menopause, begin to experience an influx of headaches from a host of factors. In order to distinguish the difference between a normal headache and more serious migraines, continue reading to learn the most common symptoms of migraine headaches.

There are several types of headaches that menopausal women may experience as a result of fluctuating hormone levels.

Common Symptoms of Headaches

Throbbing, pulsating pain in the head

Intensification of pain by routine physical activity

Pain begins in a specific area on one side of the head

Pain lasting up to 24 hours or in some cases several

Nausea and vomiting

Sensitivity to light, sound and odor

Sweaty hands and feet

Woman in pain: pulsating pain in the head is a common symptom of menopausal headaches

Click on the following link to learn more about headaches during menopause, or continue reading below to find out about the different types of headaches.

How to Prevent Headaches during Menopause

Menopausal headaches are a common complaint among women, and can range from mild to severe. These headaches are primarily caused by hormone fluctuations, but there are helpful ways to prevent headaches during menopause, such as getting plenty of sleep, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, and eating properly.

Understanding Menopausal Headaches

Menopausal headaches are primarily caused by the fluctuation of hormones during menopause. There are several types of menopausal headaches with various degrees of pain. Treatment options include incorporating simple life changes into your routine. Also, prescription medications are a treatment option for those who experience recurrent headaches.

Types of Headaches

Some women might be familiar with menstrual migraines. These migraines are hormone-related and are sparked on the first day or two of menstruation and recede once menstruation has concluded. Hormonal origins of migraine headaches will be discussed in the causes of headaches section. Other types of migraines include the following:

Migraines with aura

These start with a neurological phenomenon (aura) experienced about half an hour before head pain arrives. Most auras are experienced visually, characterized by bright, shimmering lights around objects or at the edges of the field of vision.

Migraines without aura

This is the most common type of migraine. It can occur on one side or both sides of the head. Fatigue or mood swings may occur 24 hours before the headache. Nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light (photophobia) often accompany migraines without aura.

Other less common headaches: carotidynia, headache-free migraine, ophthalmoplegic migraine.

Headaches Statistics

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, affecting 64% of men and 88% of women at least some time during their lifetimes. A tension headache generally produces a diffuse, usually mild to moderate pain throughout the head. The feeling has been likened to that of having a tight band synched around the head. A tension headache may also cause pain in the back of your neck at the base of your skull.

Sinus headaches pain areas: headaches can occur in the forehead and around the eyes and cheeks.

The third most frequently experienced type of headache for menopausal women is a sinus headache. To understand sinus headaches, it's best to first start by defining what sinuses are. Sinuses are air-filled cavities located in the cheekbones, forehead, and behind the bridge of the nose. The sinuses produce thin mucus that drains out of the channels of the nose. When a sinus becomes inflamed, usually as the result of an allergic reaction or an infection, the inflammation will prevent the outflow of mucus and cause a pain similar to that of a headache.

A sinus headache, then, is the inflammation and blockage of the sinus cavities. This is also known as congestion or a congestion headache.

In many cases, these three types of headaches can all be traced to the same cause. To learn more about these hormonal causes as well as other potential causes of headaches, keep reading below.

4 Types of Headaches

Headaches affect almost of the population at some point in their lives, and can range from mild to severe. Headaches can be caused by hormone fluctuations, stress, poor posture, and bright lights. Staying hydrated and taking short walks as much as possible can help manage headaches.

5 Headache Triggers during Menopause

Hormonal imbalance during menopause may cause headaches, though there are also behaviors and habits which can easily trigger this menopause symptom. Poor nutrition, a sedate lifestyle, stress and unhealthy sleep patterns can all exacerbate headaches. It is important to address these issues with lifestyle changes, or opting for alternative approaches like acupuncture.

Causes of Headaches

Any woman who has found herself incapacitated with headache pain every time her period rolls around has probably already discovered the connection between headaches and hormones, which wax and wane during menstruation. Similarly, hormonal levels fluctuation, wildly experienced by women as they approach menopause, can spark painful migraine headaches.

As menopause approaches, women's estrogen and progesterone levels surge and dip prior to the levels receding to a low level once she passes through menopause and is no longer menstrual. This estrogen imbalance is known to affect the brain in various ways, including the onset of headaches.

Types of headache sufferers

Incidence of migraines during hormone level changes

There are two types of women who suffer from hormone related headaches: women whose headaches are caused by declining estrogen hormones, and women whose headaches are caused by elevated estrogen levels. Dramatically fluctuating estrogen levels just before menopause can cause both types of headaches. Many doctors believe that a long duration of significantly increased levels of estrogen, followed by a sudden drop in hormones, such as the time just before menopause, will cause more severe headaches than even menstrual headaches.

Hormone fluctuations can dilate and constrict blood vessels

Research attempting to discover exactly why hormonal fluctuations cause headaches during menopause is still inconclusive. However, most doctors agree that the reason has to do with the effects that hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, have on the brain and its blood vessels. Estrogen causes blood vessels to dilate, while progesterone causes them to constrict. As the hormones fluctuate, the blood vessels are forced to expand and contract, resulting in intense pain in the head. Read below for additional causes of headaches during menopause.

Other causes and triggers of headaches

Although hormonal imbalance is the primary cause of headaches for women going through menopause, there are other factors that can either trigger or exacerbate headaches. Below there is a list of triggers that can set off headaches.

When to See a Doctor

The following symptoms warrant a trip to the doctor:

Occurrence of a new, "worst-ever" headache Progressively worsening headaches More severe headache pain than usual Headaches that causes awakening from sleep Headaches and stiff neck along with a high fever Confusion, dizziness, or weakness with headaches

Bright lights, loud noises, or strong odors

Stress, anxiety, or relaxation after stress

Weather changes

Alcohol, caffeine (too much or withdrawal)

Lack of or too much sleep

Skipped meals or fasting

Aspartame, common in sugar-free sweeteners

Foods that contain:

Nitrates (hot dogs and lunch meats)

Monosodium glutamate, better known as MSG (fast food, Chinese food, seasonings)

Tyramine (aged cheese, soy products, fava beans, hard sausages, smoked fish, and Chianti wine).

Click on the following link to learn more about the causes of headaches, or continue reading below for a look at the treatment options available to alleviate headaches.

8 Bad Habits That Trigger Severe Headaches

There are several bad habits which can also trigger severe headaches. Some of these include drinking too much alcohol and caffeine, stress, and poor posture. These bad habits can be avoided by making a few simple lifestyle changes, like eating properly and getting plenty of sleep and exercise.

Causes of Headaches in Menopausal Women

Women are particularly susceptible to headaches in the years prior to menopause. These may range from mild and irritating to unbearable, and have the potential to seriously affect both lifestyle and well-being. Headaches occur during menopause for several reasons, some of which are hormonal, some environmental, and others dietary.

Treatments for Headaches

Fortunately for women everywhere, there are a number of treatment options to help manage with, and even eliminate, headaches. While many women turn to over the counter options such as aspirin to alleviate headaches, this does not get to the root of the problem and help to eliminate them.

Woman gardening: lifestyle changes and stress reduction are the best way to treat headaches

It is generally recommended that women begin with the least invasive option, which would be lifestyle changes. In the case of headaches, this involves such steps as making sure to avoid environmental or dietary triggers, reducing stress with techniques such as yoga or meditation, and exercising. If headaches strike, management techniques such as massage or hot and cold compresses can help.

While these lifestyle changes are a good way to start managing headaches, the best option is usually to combine these changes with a more specific and pointed approach.

Caffeine and Headaches

A cup of coffee or tea a day has been shown to reduce the incidence of headaches in menopausal women, though more than this may actually trigger headaches.

The most effective method, as headaches in menopausal women are primarily caused by hormonal imbalance, is to treat the problem directly at the hormonal source. A variety of natural and alternative medicines exist that are able to address this imbalance.

For more prolonged or drastic cases of headaches, it may be necessary to seek the advice of a healthcare professional and possibly seek surgical or pharmaceutical options, though these carry the most risk of side effects and are not recommended for long term use in the treatment of headaches.

Click on the following link to learn more specifics about the treatments for headaches. The most effective treatments for headaches typically combine lifestyle changes and alternative medicine.

Managing Chronic Daily Headaches

Chronic daily headaches are a frustrating symptom that can occur during menopause. These headaches are typically caused by hormone fluctuations, specifically of estrogen and progesterone. Drinking plenty of water and avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine are a few ways to help prevent chronic headaches.

How to Manage Menopausal Headaches at Work

Menopausal headaches can be debilitating when they occur at work. They are usually caused by hormone fluctuations, but can also induced by stress, poor posture, and bright lights. Staying hydrated, eating healthy, and taking shorts walks as much as possible can help manage menopausal headaches.

Sources:
  • “Migraines”. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. www.womenshealth.gov.
  • Dr. Lichten, Edward. "Menopausal migraine: The Role of Hormonal Replacement." The Menopausal Syndrome. Scottsdale, Arizona January 27, 1990. Reid-Rowell, Inc. Pages 21-24
  • "Migraines." www.mayoclinic.com.
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