Study Shows Increase in Migraine During Perimenopause and Menopause

Reuters Health reports that a new study from Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain has found an increase in high-frequency migraine headaches during perimenopause. The study’s Lead author, Dr. Vincent T. Martin, is co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Program at the University of Cincinnati Neuroscience Institute. Martin cites past studies as well as anecdotal evidence from his own practice as seeing increased prevalence of migraine headaches during the transition to menopause, but said that the relationship had yet to be directly studied.

The study looked at self-report data collected in 2006 from more than 3000 women aged 35-65 who experienced migraine headaches before and during menopause. Results showed that while only 8 percent of these women reported high-frequency headaches prior to the onset of menopause symptoms, the number rose to 12.2 percent in perimenopause and 12 percent of post-menopausal women experiencing these headaches.

Perimenopause is the period leading up to menopause when periods become irregular as a woman’s egg supply wanes and her hormone balance begins to shift. It is a time of “hormonal confusion,” says Dr. Sherry Ross, ob-gyn, who was not involved in the migraine study. “Symptoms are erratic and disruptive.”

For some women this stage can last up to 10 years, a time that Dr. Sherry notes often coincides with many other emotional and physical disruptions: “The 40’s are a difficult decade for women--- between dealing with challenging teenagers, divorce, changes in self-esteem, body image and other midlife stresses, 40’s are challenging without having any hormonal upheaval.”

Martin notes, “Migraines are one of the most common causes of disability in the workplace of any disease.” With 73.8 percent of women aged 45-54 years working, this constitutes a significant public health issue that deserves further attention, especially research into preventative treatment. In the meantime, Martin says, “If your headaches are occurring more than 15 days per month, if you’re using a lot of medications, or if you’re not getting reasonable relief from the treatments that your primary care physicians prescribe, then seek out a pain specialist.”

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