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Why talk about headaches on a website devoted to hormones? For the simple reason that, as most women know, they are often triggered by hormones. Almost one in five women has migraines. Often these are related to the cycle, hence the link to hormones.

Nearly everyone gets a headache once in a while. A dull ache that happens only once in a while may not need more than an over-the-counter remedy.  Headaches become a medical problem when they are very frequent or so severe as to require you to stop your normal activities. Iíve had patients whose migraines are so agonizing that they sometimes had to leave work, or needed to call their mother to watch the children while they went in the bedroom, turned off the lights and lay down.

Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches are more common in women, but men can get them too. Although they can occur in children, migraine headaches typically start in the teens, get worse in the twenties and thirties, and then gradually get better. However, migraine sometimes will get worse for no clear reason. A worsening of headaches or change in pattern is reason to see a physician promptly.

Migraine often starts with an aura such as spots in front of the eyes and an overall strange feeling that becomes only too familiar to migraine sufferers. (Rarely the aura can last longer than one hour or be accompanied by paralysis. Either is reason to see a physician immediately.) Then the headache begins. It is usually one-sided, at least at first, and is throbbing. Light and sound are very bothersome. There may be nausea and even vomiting, which sometimes relieves the headache. Sleep often relieves it too. But youíve still lost several hours out of your day.

A migraine usually lasts a few hours but can last several days, especially when it occurs with menstruation.

The symptoms of migraine are caused by changes in the blood vessels in the brain. The vessels first contract, then expand. The pain is due to the expansion of the vessels, which stretches their walls. The earlier contraction results in decreased blood flow and is the cause of the aura (things may sound or look odd or there may be flashing lights or a change in the visual field) that many people experience before a migraine attack. As the vessels expand, the aura goes away and the headache begins. An aura lasting longer than one hour may indicate a more serious condition. Migraine is usually one-sided, but not invariably. The pain can lead to muscle contraction as described above, so that two types of headache may be present at the same time.

Next ->

Migraine Headaches
Other Patterns of Headache
Hormonal Migraine
How Migraine is Treated
Alternative Treatments for Migraine


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