A link between circulating levels of the hormone oestrogen and the occurrence of migraines in female sufferers has long been established. In many cases, the onset of migraines coincides with puberty, with girls and women often noticing worsening of their symptoms at specific times during their menstrual cycle.
For migraines and the menopause, the connection between oestrogen levels and migraine attacks is also evident around the time of the menopause, where fluctuations in hormone levels can cause no change or worsening of migraine symptoms in almost half of all female sufferers, while a smaller proportion will experience a welcome alleviation of their attacks.
The time around the menopause is known as peri-menopause. This is the time when hormone levels become erratic, leading to irregular periods and the other symptoms classically associated with menopause, such as hot flushes, mood swings and difficulty sleeping. Peri-menopause can last for several years before hormone levels eventually settle down.
To establish whether your migraines are associated with peri-menopausal changes, it is helpful to keep a diary of symptoms, as well as any other factors that may be causing your symptoms, such as changes in diet, activity levels, stress or illness. This can be helpful not only in diagnosing problems, but also in identifying ways that you can address the problem, such as through diet and exercise.
When it comes to migraines and the menopause, it is important to check in with your GP for a general health check and to ensure that your symptoms are due to the menopause and not another underlying cause. They will also be able to discuss your options regarding treatment and management of your symptoms.