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Migraine Attacks Increase With Menopause, Study Finds

I just arrived in Los Angeles for the American Headache Society’s annual scientific meeting. It’s been a rough month, so I’m not sure how much of the conference I’ll get to attend, but I’m eager for whatever I’ll get to learn. Tons of research will be presented at the meeting, but one study in particular is more frightening than exciting:

A study of 3,606 women between the ages of 35 and 65 found that women who were in the transition to menopause or were already in menopause had more frequent migraine attacks than women who hadn’t begun menopause. In the study, about a third of the women hadn’t yet hit menopause (premenopausal), a third were in the transition to menopause (peri-menopausal) and a third had already entered menopause.

Only 8% of premenopausal women had 10 or more migraine attacks per month. Of women who were in the transition to menopause or already in menopause, 12% had 10 or more attacks a month. Researchers concluded that the peri-menopausal and menopausal women were 50% to 60% more likely to have frequent migraine attacks than pre-menopausal women.

Hormonal changes, particularly the drop in estrogen in peri-menopause and menopause, are thought to be responsible for this disparity.

I’d bet at least 99% of women have had a health care provider tell them to expect a decrease in their migraine frequency menopause. Many of us have even been told the migraine attacks will stop completely. This research raises serious doubts about the migraine nirvana we may have thought awaited us.

4 Responses to Migraine Attacks Increase With Menopause, Study Finds

  1. Melanie says:

    Thanks for bringing us reports from the conference! As for migraine in menopause, an increase in migraines has definitely been my own experience, after reading and being told that I could expect to have less migraines in menopause and after. I had read long ago when they thought migraines were vascular that our vascular systems were not as sensitive or capable of tightening up as much in older years, and that was a reason to expect better migraine outcomes. My migraines have always had a hormonal component, although not exclusively hormonal. It has been disappointing to have an increase in frequency and duration of migraines, although I would say my pain levels are not as high as they were, say, in my 20s. But I’m glad that they are researching this connection with migraines and menopause, since the old ways of thinking were not accurate!!! Thanks again and I’ll look forward to hearing more from the conference!

    • Melanie,

      I’m with you on the vascular component being the old reason people gave for migraines decreasing with age. Several doctors interviewed about this study have said that patients have been saying for years that their migraines worsen with perimenopause or menopause. Too bad patients haven’t learned that until after they began the transition!

      Kerrie

  2. Mindy says:

    Were the women in the study already migraine sufferers? I watched my own mother go through years of migraines that started in her late 20’s/early 30’s & continue on at 60+. I would def say they were worse during the menopause and post menopause years. She also developed fibromyalgia, which I try not to worry about, but considering I seem to be following in her footsteps….I just keep hoping more advanced medicine/treatments are coming & stay on top of my own health to ensure I’m doing all I can.

  3. Mindy,

    I believe they were, but am not sure the study looked at that specifically. I’ve asked if researchers knew whether patients had ever had frequent migraines before peri/menopause, but haven’t heard back yet. I’ll let you know what I learn.

    Kerrie

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