Epidemiological data suggests that approximately two thirds of migraine sufferers are women. In most women, the migraine episodes are related to their menstrual cycle, which implies that almost half of all the migraine headaches are linked to menstrual problems. Menstrual migraines hence are of a very significant concern.
Studies have suggested that migraines or headaches in women are closely linked with the hormonal levels of estrogen and progesterone. During the start of the menstrual cycle, the levels of estrogen and progesterone drop drastically. This is the time when most women with menstrual migraine suffer from symptoms of severe headache.
Further, other studies have shown that migraine headaches disappear during pregnancy, further reiterating the close linkage between fluctuation of hormonal levels and migraine.
Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy are common triggers for onset of menstrual migraine. Reports have suggested that birth control pills containing high concentration of estrogen are more likely linked with menstrual migraines, while birth control pills containing high concentration of progesterone don’t trigger menstrual migraines.
Symptoms Of Menstrual Migraines
The symptoms linked with menstrual migraine are typically similar to symptoms of other forms of headache and can be categories into three stages- prodromal phase, acute phase and recovery phase. Only about 25% of menstrual migraines manifest all the phases, with almost 70% manifesting any two phases.
- Prodromal phase: This phase is characterized by symptoms like increased irritability, lethargy and weakness. During this stage the patient may complain of a feeling of illness, though no specific symptoms linked to headaches are experienced. The duration varies from a couple of hours to a couple of days.
- Acute phase: This phase is characterized by onset of one sided headaches or occipital headaches with or without visual disturbances. Visual disturbances include color spots, blurring of vision and increased sensitivity to light. At this stage the female may also suffer from increased sensitivity to noise. The duration of this phase may vary from 15 minutes to a couple of hours.
- Recovery phase: This phase is linked with sleepiness and tiredness. Loss of appetite and reduced ability to concentrate are other key symptoms observed at this stage. This phase may last for about six to eight hours.
How To Relieve Menstrual Migraines?
Here are some tips on how to relieve and avoid menstrual migraines,
- Avoid exposure to bright and flickering lights. Don’t skip meals if you are prone to migraines. Both these factors may act as triggers to onset of migraines.
- Add two tablespoons of turmeric to a glass of warm milk and consume twice a day. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and thereby acts as NSAIDs while milk contains Vitamin B12 which helps sooth pain.
- Avoid the use of birth control pills that are high in estrogen. Talk to your doctor to suggest other alternative options for birth control. Also request for alternative treatment options for symptoms of menopause.
- Include foods like green leafy vegetables, fresh fruits, soy, etc in your diet. Avoid lean meat, poultry and processed foods as they have been linked to hormonal irregularities and can trigger menstrual migraines.
- Homeopathic drug Pulsatilla and Sepia are useful to deal with menstrual migraines. Consult your homeopathic physician for recommending the right dosage and frequency.