Migraine headaches are severe headaches caused by the enlargement of blood vessels in the head. The nerve fibers around these blood vessels react to the enlargement, causing an intense throbbing pain.
Some migraine sufferers experience an aura, which warns the individual that a migraine is starting. More common symptoms can be seeing flashing lights, blind spots, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and tingling in the extremities.
About 75 percent of migraine sufferers are female, and of this group, 60-70 percent experience migraines triggered by the menstrual cycle which is where the term "menstrual migraine" comes from. Researchers have found a strong connection between estrogen hormones and migraine headaches, which is why women tend to be more impacted by migraines than men.
Studies have also shown that sustained release testosterone, provided by a subcutaneous insertion of pellets, is effective therapy for migraine headaches in pre- and post-menopausal patients.
Typically, higher estrogen levels will prevent migraine headaches, whereas lower estrogen levels will result in a migraine headache. Because a woman’s estrogen levels are lowest when she is menstruating, this is usually the time that migraine headaches are most likely to occur. It is also important to note that fluctuating estrogen levels can also cause migraines. In addition, every woman reacts differently to hormones, so a woman may have hormone-related migraines even when she does not have her period.
In addition to the menstrual cycle, there are other periods in a woman’s lifetime when her hormone levels change drastically, and can impact hormone-related migraines. Many women find that their migraines are greatly reduced or even disappear during pregnancy due to steady state levels of estrogen. It’s thought that this may “protect” the brain against migraines. A dip in estrogen levels after the birth of the baby can trigger migraines once again.
Peri-menopause and menopause also impact hormone levels, and thus, migraines. During this time, the body’s hormones levels tend to rise and drop dramatically; this fluctuation can trigger migraine headaches. Using bio-identical hormones including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone to balance or replace the hormonal deficiency can provide relief.