Headaches Can Decrease the Quality of Life For Some Perimenopausal
during menopause have become an expected, if not welcome, feature of
middle age for many women. But few women are prepared for the increasing
number of severe migraines that can signal menopause is in the offing
(a period of time known as perimenopause).
can be a debilitating condition that interferes significantly with a
woman's quality of life," says Margaret Moloney, Ph.D., R.N., clinical
associate professor, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Emory
University. "Add stress from juggling a career, adolescent children
and aging parents to hormonal shifts, weather patterns and menstrual
cycles, and the results can mean migraine for anywhere from four hours
to as long as three days for some women."
During perimenopause, fluctuating
estrogen levels can intensify existing headaches or cause new ones.
And although menopause-related disturbances such as hot flashes have
been an increasingly popular topic in clinical practice and research,
migraine headaches have yet to receive the attention they deserve, Dr.
Moloney admits. Many women, she says, do not even know they are experiencing
"About half of all women
with migraines don't seek medical attention for what they think are
just bad headaches, so they don't get diagnosed and ultimately don't
get treated. Health care providers should consider mentioning migraines
when they examine women for other conditions."
Dr. Moloney has begun a two-year
pilot study to investigate the ways in which women take care of their
migraine headaches and how the headaches affect their lives. Perimenopausal
women who experience migraines use the Internet to answer questionnaires
and participate in on-line chat groups. The study is being funded by
the National Institute for Nursing Research/National Institutes of Health.
Contrary to most belief,
a migraine is not just a bad headache. A headache is just one of the
symptoms of migraine pain. Because migraines result from irritation
of the nerves in the face, migraines can cause nasal congestion and
facial pain. Migraine sufferers may also experience nausea, vomiting,
vertigo, fatigue, sensitivity to light and sound, and flashing lights
in their field of vision.
Dr. Moloney is particularly
interested in the preventive measures women can take to prevent the
triggers for migraines.
"Medications alone may not
be enough," Dr. Moloney says. They don't completely solve the problem
and they don't work well for all people. Additionally, medications can't
be used all of the time because of their side effects."
Moloney suggests that women
with headaches monitor their lifestyles for conditions that trigger
migraines. For example, they can try to decrease their stress levels
or reduce their consumption of particular types of alcohol, such as
red wine. Changes in the weather can also trigger migraine episodes
for some women. In addition to avoiding triggers, herbs such as feverfew
and vitamins such as riboflavin are other preventive measures. But it
important to consult your health care provider before taking any supplements,