If you’ve never had a migraine before, count yourself among the lucky ones. Migraines are intense headaches that throb, ache and linger for hours if not days, and unfortunately they are one of the more common symptoms of menopause.
Migraines make you sensitive to light, sounds and smells. The intensity of these headaches differs person to person, but for many they are completely incapacitating. They make it impossible to work, play, talk, eat, exercise or do just about anything else you can think of. A bad migraine will leave you in your bed with the lights out, miserable until the pain fades away.
Taking medication when a migraine first appears is the best way to reduce the discomfort to come. But for those who have never struggled with migraines before, dealing with debilitating headaches can be a tough task. While it might only take a few experiences to learn when one is coming on, that is a few headaches too many. It helps to understand what causes migraines, what you can do about them and how to detect the warning signs so you can take action before your migraine knocks you out for the night.
What Causes Migraines?
While the exact cause of migraines is still debated, they are understood to be a result of fluctuations in brain chemicals. This explains the many “triggers” that prompt migraines in different situations. Hormonal imbalances as a result of stress, fatigue and menopause can cause migraines to develop rather quickly.
The changes in brain chemicals cause inflammation in neural passageways, causing pressure to build on nerves. This can leave you in extreme pain and cause a number of sensory and mental changes that add to the unpleasant experience of a migraine.
The most common symptoms of migraines include:
- Sharp pain
- Numbness in face or extremities, especially the hands
- Sharpened sensitivity to smells, lights and sounds
- Visual disturbances
Visual disturbances during migraines are called auras. These often include floating lines, flashing lights and temporary loss of peripheral vision, or tunnel vision. Not everyone who experiences migraines will develop auras. For those who do, auras will often appear before the pain sets in.
The onset of one or a combination of these symptoms should signal you to pay attention. If you are experiencing a migraine, taking action before it fully sets in is your best bet. Removing yourself from certain lights, sounds or smells can often help, as can taking a nap or using over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications.
Those who develop migraines during menopause often find relief from the headaches during hormone therapy, as the anti-aging treatment will restore hormone balance and reduce the fluctuations that are causing migraines to develop.