Two years ago I was on vacation having the time of my life. I was in Budapest enjoying the interesting culture and cuisine when my head started pounding. Checking the calendar I realized what day it was. Almost every month to the day I would get a migraine headache. No, it wasn’t a brain tumor or life threatening event. At the time I didn’t know or understand what was happening to me. I remember thinking at one time that they were sinus headaches. They always affected the left side of my head and lasted exactly three days. After visiting both my family doctor and my gynecologist we then figured out what was happening. They asked me to keep a diary of my symptoms. I also had labs drawn to check my hormone levels. Sometimes it can be a confusing problem to solve with many pieces to the puzzle. What I was experiencing was a menstrual migraine.
Menstrual migraines are common problems, primarily caused by estrogen, the female sex hormone that regulates the menstrual cycle. About 60% of women who have migraines experience attacks before or during thier menstrual period. Only about 10 to 15% will have migraines only when they have their menstrual period. The majority of women will have a migraine at other times of their cycle but will experience attacks of greater severity one to two days before or during their period. The predictability allows women to use short term preventive treatments that are aimed at stopping the attacks before they occur. Because birth control pills alter estrogen levels more women on them are vulnerable to have headaches. Sometimes taking the pill can worsen migrain patterns. Many woman also experience an improvement in their headaches after menopause.
If you believe you might be experiencing menstrual migraines consult your physician. There are several things that can be done to break the cycle. There are also treatments for the headaches themselves, such as NSAID medications. Sometimes a combination of solutions may take many months to complete. You must be diligent in searching with your physician for the
Only your doctor will be able to diagnose a menstrual migraine from various other conditions. It is always wise to seek medical advice when having severe headaches. It is important to keep a diary and always take it to your doctor appointments. Your goal should be to feel as if you have gotten your life back. Whatever you do please don’t suffer unnecessarily!