The Link Between Migraine And Unstable Levels Of Estrogen

First Posted: Jun 05, 2016 08:42 AM EDT

Migraines are usually more common in women than men. Although there is still no explanation for this, some researchers suggest that the female hormone, estrogen may be one of the factors.

It has been reported that migraine is the third most common illness in the world. According to statistics, 1 in 4 American households has one person who experiences migraine. It has also been said that women are three times more likely to suffer from migraine than men. The condition in women totals to 18 percent of the population, compared to only 6 percent of men.

According to Medical News Today, researchers believe that the increase incidence of migraine in women is most likely because of both biological and psychosocial factors. But, the gender difference is most obvious in women of reproductive age, and many scientists believe that the increase in the level of hormones may be what's causing the problem.

The researchers led by Dr. Jelena Pavlović at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/ Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York set out to further investigate the role of estrogen. They set out to uncover the connection between the changing level of estrogen and the individual's risk of experiencing migraine.

The theory they wanted to test was that women whose estrogen levels drop more swiftly in the days just before menstruation might be more at risk of developing migraine.

The team used data from 114 women with a history of migraine and 223 women who has never experience migraine. The women in the study had an average age of 47. The women in the study were asked to keep a headache diary and monitor the level of their hormone across one monthly cycle. Hormones were measured through urine samples which the investigators charted both the peak hormone levels and average daily levels. They also measured daily rates of decline, calculated over the 5 days following each hormone peak in their cycles.

The part of the cycle that was of particular interest to the team was the 2 days following the peak estrogen level in the luteal phase of the cycle. This is the time after ovulation but before menstruation.

According to an article Medpage Today by Sydney Lupkin, the study authors did not find any significant differences in the groups when they looked at absolute peak and daily hormone values, and they found no significant differences in the periovulatory phase. So as part of a secondary analysis of the group with migraine, the authors of the study revealed that hormone patterns were similar regardless if the woman experienced migraine that cycle.

This resulted to Pavlović and her team in forming a "two-hit" hypothesis. The hypothesis states that women with rapid drop in estrogen level before menstruation are more sensitive to anything that may trigger a migraine attack. It's a combination of the estrogen drop and the additional trigger that result in a migraine.

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