Do you often get headaches when it’s your time of the month? Jeet Dalvi tells you more about these hormonal headaches and how you can deal with them
It’s believed that the leading cause of headaches in women is fluctuating hormones during their menstrual cycle. These are called hormonal headaches and, according to researchers, at least 5 million women across the world experience them every month. According to Dr. Anil Balani, a consultant physician at PD Hinduja Hospital & Medical Research Centre, headaches experienced by women that aren’t generally very severe can get worse when oestrogen levels dip, which happens when a woman is menstruating.
KNOW YOUR SYMPTOMS
Dr. Anil tells us that people tend to confuse hormonal headaches with migraines and that’s where the symptoms of a hormonal headache are overlooked. Hormonal headaches primarily dull your vision, leaving you feeling nauseated. Experiencing abdominal cramps also adds to the severity of a hormonal headache. This type of headache is sometimes characterised by a sensitivity to light, making it difficult for the sufferer to be in a bright environment. Fainting, although rare, can occur when you’re suffering from a hormonal headache.
The primary cause of a hormonal headache is undoubtedly hormonal changes that are brought on by menstruation. However, it isn’t the only factor that leads to these headaches. Other factors that aggravate a hormonal headache include skipping meals, getting too little (or even too much) sleep, severe weather changes, alcoholic beverages (especially red wine), drinking a lot of caffeine (or even caffeine withdrawal), stress, processed meats, aged cheeses, MSG (monosodium glutamate), soy products and artificial sweeteners.
Managing the migraine
If you are someone who tracks your cycle and has a record of your bad days, you’ll have a good idea about when these headaches might be coming on. Take things a step further and manage them using these simple techniques.
- It’s crucial that you maintain your blood sugar levels. Don’t skip meals, and try eating small snacks every three or four hours during the day.
- Make sure that you go to bed (and wake up) at the appropriate time. Sleeping at odd hours puts a strain on your body, which can respond by throwing your hormone levels out of balance.
- Make sure that you consume enough vitamins through your meals since a vitamin deficiency can upset your menstrual cycle.
- Avoid stress as much as you can. Stress plays a major role in most types of headaches. However, if you can manage stress when you’re menstruating, you can have a happier period.
TREATING HORMONAL HEADACHES
If it’s impossible for you to avoid stress and maintain a regular sleep cycle, here are a few other things that might help with the excruciating headaches. Dr. Anil tells us about some of the medicines most commonly recommended for hormonal headaches.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs work best as painkillers as well as to reduce inflammation. They are prescribed for a variety of reasons, including hormonal headaches and arthritis. They do have side-effects, so you should consult your doctor before you start on a course.
These drugs are chiefly used to treat high blood pressure, but can also be used for a variety of conditions including migraines and hormonal headaches. Beta blockers work by blocking the effects of the hormone epinephrine, which is also known as adrenaline.
This drug is used to prevent and treat migraines and headaches. Since it can make you drowsy, it is best to take it before going to bed. However, you should consult your doctor before taking Flunarin.
If you experience hormonal headaches and you’re pregnant, you may not be able to take certain medication and should avoid some of the treatments that are generally recommended. In such cases, a progesterone tablet may work. However, remember that when you’re pregnant you should only take medication under your doctor’s supervision.
This is a group of drugs that are used to treat migraines and the more severe cluster headaches.
How serious are hormonal headaches?
Dr. Anil tells us about the severity of hormonal headaches, saying, “This type of headache isn’t life threatening, but can cause pain and stress and degrade your mental health. A lack of awareness about these headaches usually lead them to intensify, the condition becoming worse by the time you decide seek help. You must consult a doctor if your headaches become unbearable. However, severe cases have been recorded with vision loss, brain strokes and permanent mental health damage.”