Menopause and headaches
Headaches are more common around menopause due to fluctuating hormone levels. If you have had headaches in the past – especially if you get migraines – you may notice them getting more frequent or more severe.
Don’t panic yet, there are things you can do to address this frustrating aspect of menopause. Read on to find out more.
Many different kinds of headaches affect women at the time of menopause. The two most common are:
1. Migraines: These can be severe, usually one-sided headaches that may be associated with nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and noise. Migraines can be preceded with sensory changes known as aura. These often cause changes to your vision, including seeing flashing lights or zigzag lines
2. Tension headaches: They are often described as a band-like pain or pressure around the head which lasts from 30 minutes to several hours
Headaches have many different causes. It is important that you see your doctor if you are concerned to get appropriate treatment. In this guide, we focus on migraines as this kind of headache is the most affected by the hormonal fluctuations of menopause.
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HOW CAN YOU MINIMALISE HEADACHES?
1. Diary. Try keeping a diary of your headaches (including dates, times, symptoms and possible triggers). This will help you and your doctor to identify any patterns, especially if your headaches are linked to your menstrual cycle.
2. Healthy lifestyle. Minimise alcohol, caffeine and any other known headache triggers. Take some aerobic exercise and aim to get enough sleep with a regular routine.
3. Talk to your doctor. Headaches can be caused by a number of different conditions, many of which can be treated effectively once they are diagnosed.
4. Relax. Other recommended measures include yoga and acupuncture.
WOULD HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY (HRT) HELP?
HRT is not a treatment for migraines, although women with migraines can use certain types of HRT to control other menopausal symptoms. Women with headaches have a variable response to HRT. Overall, migraines generally get worse with hormone treatment.
If you are taking HRT to control other menopausal symptoms and find that it makes your headaches worse, you may benefit from switching to a transdermal preparation (HRT patch or gel), or from a reduced dose of oestrogen.
For women with migraines, a transdermal preparation (HRT patch or gel) is usually the safest. This is because women who regularly experience migraines may be at risk of certain conditions. Taking the HRT transdermally greatly reduces this risk.
Although HRT is beneficial for some women, it is not suitable for everyone. Speak to your doctor about whether it is right for you.
Read more about the HRT debate.
Headaches and menopause
Keeping a diary has helped me figure out that too much caffeine triggers my headaches.”
WHAT HEADACHE RELIEF IS AVAILABLE?
Download Stella for personalised cognitive behaviour therapy for managing symptoms during menopause