Review on April 30, 2009
From a sharp pain to a dull throb, many women entering the menopausal era may start to notice an increase in headaches. Menstrual headaches are influenced by hormone changes in the ovarian cycle. To test whether menstrual headaches are caused by the absence of a sex hormone known as estradiol, estradiol was implanted in the blood of 24 women experiencing headaches. Researchers believed that the headaches were caused by falling levels of estradiol, not progesterone.
After five years of testing, 23 patients improved with the treatment and 20 reported to be nearly headache free. Only one patient did not experience an improvement in the menstrual headache after treatment. Eleven became headache-free and nine gained almost complete relief. Three reported partial relief and only one gained no benefit.
Side effects included lighter and less painful periods, except for four women who experienced heavier blood flow. Nineteen patients have continued treatment, while the others have stopped either out of concern over long-term hormone therapy or not wanting to travel to the clinic.
Implant therapy was preferable to oral contraceptive therapy as estradiol has fewer side effects than synthetic estrogens and pro-estrogens. It is safer for older women and most useful to those approaching menopause, though still is not without its side effects and dangers.
The treatment with estradiol implants had a 96% response rate in patients with menstrual headaches where other drug therapy failed. By preventing biochemical changes associated with the ovarian cycle through an increase in plasma estradiol concentration, menstrual headaches may possibly decrease.