Thirty percent of women will suffer from migraines during their lifetime. To be diagnosed with migraines your headache must be recurring, moderate to severe in intensity, pulsating, unilateral and last between 4-72 hours. Other minor signs of a migraine include sensitivity to light, sounds and smells, nausea and/or vomiting, and a desire to be still.
Migraines in women are often triggered by hormones and/or stress. Migraine frequency and severity often increases around periods of significant hormone fluctuations, such as the onset of the menstrual cycle, pregnancy (especially in the first trimester and after delivery) and during menopause. Stress factors in as a major migraine trigger as demands on American women are very high. Many women are balancing a full-time job, children and running a household. Therefore, migraines often co-exist with conditions such as an anxiety, depression and/or insomnia in women.
It is important to make sure you are doing things that commonly reduce stress such as getting enough sleep, exercising and eating healthy. It is also a good idea to cut back on alcohol and caffeine consumption, and if you smoke, stop.
Fortunately, there are treatment options for women suffering from migraines. Depending on the triggers of the migraines, treatment must be individualized to each patient and often involves a combination of medications and lifestyle modifications. Reducing stress, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly or avoiding food triggers are lifestyle modifications you can make yourself that can make an impact on the number of migraines you have. When life style changes aren’t enough, your doctor may recommend other treatment such as hormone therapy, over the counter medication, doctor prescribed medication or Botox injections. Botox injections have become a popular treatment method for women who may not be able to take medication because of other conditions. For treatment, once every three months, a patient’s provider will administer a few injections along the forehead, back of the head, neck, and shoulders to relieve pain.
If you or someone you know is experiencing migraine symptoms, and over-the-counter medicines are no longer working, it is time to seek the help of a headache specialist. The exceptional team of medical providers at Cone Health Centers for Women’s Healthcare at Stoney Creek is dedicated to treating women who suffer from migraines and restoring their quality of life.
Karen Teague-Clark is a physician assistant headache specialist with Center for Women’s Healthcare and a member of Cone Health Medical Group. Karen received a Bachelor of Science in biology from High Point University in 1999. She earned a Master of Science in health science and completed the physician assistant program at Duke University in 2005.