Migraine is a genetic disorder which is transmitted through a gene. This premise asserts that a gene passed down through family line causes migraine, or atleast an inclination to migraine. Researchers think that people with the “migraine gene” tend to get headaches when they encounter any one of the migraine triggers, including hormonal changes caused by menstruation, menopause, the Pill, pregnancy or even certain foods. Some people may get the migraine signal in infancy, others in puberty; still others might not get it until their early thirties.
The chemical chain reactions that causes migraine headaches appear to be far more complex then those that cause tension headaches. A migraine begins when the blood vessels deep inside the brain constrict. This happen because a hormone called serotonin is excreted by blood platelets.
In the second stage of a migraine attack, serum serotonin levels drop drastically, and the blood vessels of the skull dilate quickly, causing the intense, pounding pain of a migraine headache. The pain is throbbing because the blood pulses through the swollen arteries in time with the pulsing of blood from the heart. Prostacyclin contributes to this process by forcing the blood vessels to dilate still further.
Finally, in the third phase of migraine (known as the post-headache phase), the throbbing headache gradually subsides and is replaced by a constant unwavering pain. The blood vessels tend to become thicker and more rigid. As the headache goes on, thromboxane and prostacyclin convert to other hormones, prostaglandins. These cause the artery walls to become inflamed and thicken, often leading to visible swelling of blood vessels on the scalp, temples, or back of the neck.
Women who suffer from migraine with aura often experience visual hallucinations about thirty minutes before their headaches start. These hallucinations about thirty minutes before their headaches start. Women may also suffer from neurological symptoms such as tingling or numbness in their arms and legs. Some women will note some strange smells or odors before headache onset.
- Severe one-sided headache
- Fluid retention
- Loss of appetite
Menstrual migraine headaches usually occur only immediately before, during, and the first two days after the end of the menstrual flow. Some patients will complain of headache near the time of ovulation. Migraine is not a daily headache.
The most effective prescription drugs for the treatment of menstrual migraines are the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs).
When to See Your Doctor
A woman with migraine should consult her physician if the severity of the headache hampers her everyday activity.