Know Your Pain

Periodic Headaches could be the Menstrual Migraines

The exact cause of menstrual headache is not known as there has been very little research on the subject. Some believe that certain foods like wine and factors like stress trigger off migraines. Migraines can occur during periods or otherwise. A more accepted view of the reason for these migraines is the fluctuation in the levels of estrogen and progesterone. These are the female hormones produced mostly in the ovaries. Just before a period, the levels of estrogen and progesterone fall. This fall, or rather the fluctuation rather than the fall, is believed to trigger migraine.

Again, it is not known how fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone trigger migraine. It could be because of corresponding changes in the amount of serotonin in the brain cells. Serotonins are neurotransmitters, and change in the level of serotonins is known to cause migraine. It causes constriction of blood vessels and thereby pain.

Another connection between menstrual cycle and migraine could lie in magnesium levels. Magnesium levels drop during the cycle and low magnesium is a known cause of migraine.

Menstrual migraine usually begins two days before a period and could last for three days thereafter. There are actually two kinds of menstrual migraines depending on the time of onset:

1.    Pure / true menstrual migraine: This migraine happens only during periods and not otherwise.

2.    Menstrually associated migraine: This kind happens at other times of the month.

Menstrual migraines usually cease when women become pregnant, as estrogen levels remain at a constant high during pregnancy. Towards menopause the migraines happen more frequently due to changes in estrogen at this point. After menopause, the levels of estrogen remain at a constant low and the migraines lessen.

Women also experience menstrual headaches when they discontinue birth control pills, as these pills cause changes in the levels of estrogen.

Treatment for menstrual headache:

* Anti-inflammatory painkillers can be used to treat migraines, but they cannot be used by those who suffer from asthma or duodenal ulcers.

* Estrogen supplements can be taken as soon as the period starts. Patches to be applied on the skin are available.

* Triptan drugs are widely used to treat menstrual migraines. They can be taken as a preventive measure too.

* Certain contraceptive pills may help. If the current pill is high in progestogen, switch to a pill that has lesser.

* Consume contraceptive pills for nine weeks on a trot and then take a break for seven days. This helps keep estrogen levels constant and thereby lesser migraines.

* Use some other method of contraception.