Migraine headaches have the potential to be a serious impediment to women in the menopause transition. As they can occur with varying degrees of intensity and duration, migraine headaches can range from a mild nuisance to debilitating. Migraines are closely linked to a woman's hormones. In fact, women experience migraines five times more often than men do. An estimated 30% of women experience migraines before menopause, and that percentage only increases during the time of menopause. Read on to learn more about migraine headaches, their types, and their symptoms to be better equipped to identify and manage them.
About Migraine Headaches
While women may have various experiences with migraines, there are basic characteristics they tend to share. 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. There is a wide range of possible symptoms a woman may experience along with the head pain itself, such as nausea and vomiting.
In order to distinguish between a normal headache and the more severe migraine, it helps to identify the common symptoms of migraine headaches.
Symptoms of Migraine Headaches
- Throbbing, pulsating pain in the head
- Intensification of pain with routine physical activity, coughing, straining, or lowering the head
- Tired and weak feeling
- Pain may be in one spot or generalized
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and odor
- Sweaty hands and feet
Types of Migraine Headaches
There are various types of migraine headaches. Some women might be familiar with menstrual migraines. These migraines are hormone-related and begin on the first day or two of menstruation and subside once the period has finished. Other types of migraine headaches may affect women before and during menopause.
Migraines with aura start with a neurological phenomenon, or an 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, called scintillating scotomas. These can appear as zigzag lines, castles (teichopsia), wavy images, or hallucinations. Some migraine-with-aura sufferers experience temporary vision loss. Nonvisual auras include motor weakness, speech or language abnormalities, dizziness, vertigo, and tingling or numbness of the face, tongue, or extremities.
Migraines without aura are the most common type of migraine headache and 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 often accompany migraines without aura.
Migraines are caused oftentimes during menopause by the same hormonal changes that cause other types of headaches. Click on the following link to learn more about the causes of migraine headaches.
- Office on Women's Health. (2012). Migraine fact sheet. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/migraine.html
- Ripa, P. et al. (2015). Migraine in menopausal women: a systematic review. International Journal of Women's Health, 7, 773-782. doi: 10.2147/IJWH.S70073