January 20th, 2011
Unfortunately, there is no good data to predict if a female with hemiplegic migraine (temporary one-sided paralysis) will experience more or less migraines when she is menopausal. Here is what we do know: The prevalence of migraine decreases in both men and women with age. For women migraine sufferers, studies indicate that 2/3 will experience improvement of their migraines when they become menopausal. However, this 2/3 (66%) improvement is only for women who go through menopause spontaneously. If women have their ovaries removed as if often done with a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), they fare far worse and only 1/3 will experience an improvement in their migraines with menopause. The take-home lesson here is to not rush into a complete hysterectomy unless medically necessary for reasons other than migraine headaches.
Women with menstrual migraine would be expected to notice more improvement in their migraines with menopause as they no longer have the hormonal fluctuations that are felt to be the greatest trigger for menstrual migraine. By definition, menstrual migraine is migraine without aura. However, my opinion is that women with aura including the more complicated aura called hemiplegic migraine may also have a hormonal trigger to their migraine attacks. By eliminating the ups and downs in estrogen and progesterone that characterize a women’s menstrual cycle, the hormonal trigger is removed and so I would expect less migraine attacks.
It may be useful to think about what happens during pregnancy. Estrogen levels rise, become quite high and then stay high and fairly constant until delivery. Women who have migraine without aura usually have fewer migraines during pregnancy. However, women who have migraine with aura (and hemiplegic migraine is a type of migraine with aura) often do not improve during pregnancy so for these women, the high levels of estrogen may be having a negative impact on their aura and migraines. In fact, if migraine occurs for the first time during pregnancy it is often migraine with aura.
In some sense, menopause can be considered the opposite of pregnancy since there are very low to no-existent levels of estrogen in menopausal women compared to the very high levels during pregnancy. Therefore, I predict that for most women who have migraine with aura, including hemiplegic migraine, they would experience improvement with menopause.
“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.” Buddha[/color][/i]
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