Headaches are the most common of all human afflictions. There is no one who has not suffered from them and while for most people it is an occasional occurrence to be treated with an aspirin and a brief nap, for others it is a fact of life and can reach levels where it affects the quality of life. Of all forms of headaches, the migraine is the worst. Women are three times more likely to suffer from migraines as men and the most common type is the menstrual migraine. These menstrual migraine headaches, as the name suggests, occur immediately before, during or after the period. They may also be caused by ovulation.
The symptoms of menstrual migraine are the same as other types of migraine. The headache begins on one side of the head and increases in intensity until it is a throbbing pain. The pain results in nausea, lassitude and sensitivity to light. These conditions persist until the headache begins to wear off. There are many forms of menstrual migraine treatment available, but before trying any of them, it is important to understand the causes of this affliction.
What Causes Menstrual Migraine?
All migraines are caused by changes in the body’s hormone levels. Recent research reveals that a fluctuation in the levels of a hormone called Serotonin is the actual trigger that sets of the headaches. It is possible that this is a genetic disorder where the body’s inability to metabolize Serotonin is inherited. While this may explain migraines in general, it is only a partial cause of the menstrual migraine. In women the menstrual migraine is caused by the way Serotonin acts upon specific female hormones.
Estrogen is the female sex hormone that regulates the menstrual cycle. When the levels of Estrogen and Serotonin reach an imbalance in the body, a menstrual migraine is triggered. An imbalance in the levels of another female hormone, Progesterone, is also thought to be a factor in setting off menstrual migraine headaches.
As every person’s body is different in the way its metabolism functions, some women are far more prone to menstrual migraines than others. In fact, a lot of women never have any kind of headache problems associated with their periods. Stress is a key factor in the changes in hormone levels in the body and can cause even women who do not suffer from menstrual migraines to have attacks. Increased stress levels also impact the intensity of the headaches of those women who are prone to menstrual migraines. Since estrogen levels are affected by taking oral contraceptives, women on birth control pills often suffer more frequent and more severe attacks of menstrual migraines.