by Nesreen Suwan, M.D.
Approximately 30 million Americans, primarily women, are affected by migraine headaches. Studies are leading to the conclusion that women tend to be more afflicted due to fluctuating hormonal influences, with the greatest impact occurring during women's reproductive years when family and professional demands peak. Up to one third of women between the ages of 25 and 55 have migraines. Migraines can be very debilitating, causing lost workdays and the inability to perform even very basic chores.
Migraine is a neurological disorder, and its primary dysfunction occurs within the nervous system. Symptoms include moderate to severe head pain; sensitivity to light, sound or smell; nausea; vomiting; lack of concentration; scalp tenderness; and worsening of symptoms with bending over, going up the stairs or doing very simple household activities or job requirements.
Migraine attacks tend to occur in association with hormonal fluctuations. It was found that the incidence of migraine among males and females is the same before puberty; however, it triples in females after puberty. Approximately 70% of all migraine sufferers are females, and 70% of them attribute their headaches to hormonal changes. While some women experience migraines only around their menstrual cycle, the majority of women may have attacks outside the menstrual cycle as well. In some women, there is no association between menstrual cycle and their migraines.
Other causes of hormonal change include pregnancy and menopause. During pregnancy, some women may experience improvement in their migraines, while others may experience worsening. Menopause may be associated with improvement in migraines' frequency and intensity. Keeping track of migraines with a headache diary is an invaluable tool that may help to develop a treatment plan.
Hormonally associated migraines may improve by starting hormonal treatment. On the other hand, it is not unusual for migraines to worsen with pills, and physicians may stop treatment. Both scenarios have been documented.
Dr. Nesreen Suwan, is Loyola trained and American Board certified in Neurology and Pain Medicine, with extra certification in headache medicine and Botox treatment. Dr. Suwan specializes in treatment of headaches, migraines and fibromyalgia. She is the director of the Headache and Fibromyalgia Center in Suburban Lisle at 2867 Ogden Ave. Dr. Suwan is highly recognized as a headache specialist and she is a nationally known speaker in her field. For more information, please call 630-420-8080 or visit http://controlchicagopain.com.
Hormonal Migraines: Start or Stop Pills?
As Featured In Glancer Magazine, August 2011