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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
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.
Headaches and nausea are two common symptoms that affect menopausal women. Hormone fluctuations are the primary cause of headaches and nausea, but other things like poor diet, dehydration, and high stress can induce these symptoms as well. It is important to try different treatment options to find which one is right for you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Daily headaches among middle-aged women are frustrating, painful, and affect millions of women every day. These headaches are primarily caused by hormone fluctuations, specifically of estrogen and progesterone. Drinking plenty of water, exercising regularly, and eating healthy are a few ways to help prevent daily 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.
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
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.
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
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.
Causes of migraines in menopausal women can include anything from excessive stress and dehydration to lack of sleep and insufficient exercise. Hormone fluctuations women experience during the menopause transition are the primary cause of migraines. It is important to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle in order to prevent menopausal symptoms.
Migraine symptoms affect around 29.5 million Americans, and women are more susceptible to getting headaches than men. During menopause, migraine triggers can include anything from stress and dehydration to lack of sleep and insufficient exercise. Hormone fluctuations women experience are the leading cause of migraines during menopause.
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.
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.
Headaches and stress often are experienced together in a vicious cycle. They can be especially debilitating when they occur at work. Breathing techniques can be very beneficial in relieving stress and headaches while at work. There are several breathing techniques, including nadi sodhana and sitali breathing that can be useful.
Researchers at the University of Munster have found that sex can help reduce headache pain, and even eliminate it completely in some cases. Having an orgasm during sex releases opiate-like neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins in the brain. These feel-good compounds provide instantaneous pain relief.
- “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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