Headaches are a prevalent condition, affecting approximately 25 million people in the country. Women, in particular, experience this disorder, accounting for around 57% of cases. One common cause of headaches in women is hormonal imbalances associated with the menstrual cycle.
Recognizing Menstrual Headaches
Menstrual headaches, also known as catamenial or menstrual migraines, result from hormonal imbalances typical of menstruation and genetic predisposition. The physiological decrease in estrogen, occurring a few days before menstruation, triggers these headaches. The hormonal drop can lead to brain vasodilation, causing intense pain accompanied by symptoms like nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, noise sensitivity, and sensitivity to smells.
Menstrual headaches are a subcategory of migraines that begin a few days before menstruation and persist during the first days of the cycle, significantly impacting the daily lives of affected individuals.
Additional symptoms may coincide with menstrual headaches, including nausea, lower back pain, irritability, decreased concentration, and mood changes.
Lifestyle and Medications
Patients with menstrual headaches should adopt certain lifestyle changes to promote better health. These changes include:
– Maintaining a balanced diet, low in coffee and alcohol.
– Prioritizing regular sleep patterns.
– Engaging in physical activity for an active lifestyle.
– These lifestyle adjustments help reduce stress and alleviate associated headache symptoms.
Pharmacological treatment options for menstrual headaches involve the use of analgesics such as paracetamol, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, indomethacin, ketoprofen, naproxen, nimesulide), triptans, and, if necessary, anti-nausea medications. Triptans, particularly from the family of analgesics, can be taken preventatively a couple of days before the menstrual cycle begins for about 4-5 days.
Monoclonal antibodies have proven highly effective in preventing migraines, including menstrual migraines. These antibodies can block a protein in the brain that triggers headaches by dilating blood vessels. A monthly injection of this medication can reduce the number of headache days per month by 70-80%. It’s important to note that only headache specialists, specifically neurologists, can prescribe these medications.
Magnesium and Menstrual Headaches
Magnesium is a mineral that plays various roles in the body, including enhancing nerve impulses in the brain, muscle contraction, and mood regulation. It can also mitigate the effects of headaches by reducing their intensity and frequency. To effectively leverage magnesium’s benefits for preventing or alleviating menstrual headaches, it should be taken from the week before menstruation until the end of the menstrual cycle.
Severe and Debilitating Cases
When menstrual headaches are severe and disabling, patients are advised to keep a headache diary and consult a neurological specialist. A specialist can recommend appropriate treatments and, if necessary, suggest additional tests.