Migraines Worsen for Women Approaching, During Menopause

Migraines increase in frequency as women approach menopause.

Migraines increase in frequency as women approach menopause, according to research published in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain.

The risk for high frequency headache — defined as more than 10 days with headache per month — increased by 60% in middle-aged women with migraine during perimenopause compared with normally cycling women, according to Vincent Martin, MD, professor of internal medicine in the University of Cincinnati (UC)’s Division of General Internal Medicine and co-director of the Headache and Facial Pain Program at the UC Neuroscience Institute.

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“Women have been telling doctors that their migraine headaches worsen around menopause and now we have proof they were right,” Dr Martin said in a statement.

Using data from the 2006 American Migraine, Prevalence, and Prevention study survey, a study in which 24 000 people ages 35 to 65 with severe headache were followed annually for 6 years, researchers from UC, the Montefiore Headache Center, and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Vedanta Research studied 3664 women (mean age 46 years) who experienced migraines before and during their menopausal years.

The women were asked to self-report their frequency of headaches as well as the characteristics of their menstrual cycles. Basing their frequency of menstrual cycles, the researchers grouped them into 1 of 3 groups: premenopausal (normally cycling), perimenopausal (irregularly cycling) and menopausal (no cycling).

Among women who were premenopausal, 8.0% (99/1242) had high frequency headaches, compared with 12.2% (154/1266) of perimenopausal women and 12.0% (131/1095) of postmenopausal women.

“Changes in female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone that occur during the perimenopause might trigger increased headaches during this time,” Richard Lipton, MD, director of the Montefiore Headache Center, and professor and vice chair of neurology, and the Edwin S. Lowe Chair in Neurology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said in a statement.