President's Rx: Migraines

According to the American Academy of Neurology, nearly one in five adult women gets migraines, compared with only one in 20 adult men. This week Dr. Tedd L. Mitchell talks about the connection between hormones and headaches.

Lots of things can cause headaches: a lack of sleep, a stressful day at the office, or a sinus infection. However, a migraine is a very specific type of debilitating headache that affects about 36 million Americans — most of them women.

Many women who suffer from migraines experience them around the time of their period. This has prompted much research into the unique role that female hormones play in the sequence of events culminating in a migraine.

Shifts in estrogen levels seem to be the key when it comes to migraines. Part of a woman's cycle involves a slowly but consistently rising level of estrogen, followed by a rather rapid decline as progesterone shifts into high gear. It's during this "estrogen withdrawal" that women are most susceptible to a menstrual migraine.

Treatment options for less severe menstrual migraines include over-the-counter agents, like anti-inflammatory painkillers (like naproxen sodium) or a combination of aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol) or caffeine and acetaminophen.

For folks with more frequent or significant problems, prescription medications can be a good alternative. And for women who have severe migraines, experts sometimes recommend preventive treatment that you take during your menstrual cycle and other medicines that you take every day. For maintaining good health, I'm Dr. Tedd Mitchell.