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When Your Cycle Becomes a Major Headache

Posted Aug 24 2008 1:49pm
Cathy, Migraine Sufferer: I get probably anywhere from 12 to 15 headaches a month, a lot of headaches.

ANNOUNCER: For Cathy, migraines are a painful fact of life. They are also as predictable as her monthly periods.

Cathy, Migraine Sufferer: It's before my period, during my period and a little bit after my period. And in the middle part of my cycle I'm perfectly fine. I'm headache-free. So I know what it's like to live a real life.

ANNOUNCER: More than half of women who suffer from migraines say their attacks are related to their menstrual cycle. Experts believe this is why women are more likely to have migraines than men.

Alexander Mauskop, MD, Headache Specialist: Until age of 13, 14, boys and girls experience migraines at about the same rate. About 6% of boys and girls suffer from migraines. After puberty, girls outnumber boys by a ratio of 3 to 1. We think estrogen contributes to the process of migraine. Clearly, there are women who have migraines only with their menstrual cycle and, during pregnancy, most women stop having migraines as they do after menopause.

ANNOUNCER: Keeping a journal helped Cathy and her doctor identify her headaches as menstrual migraines. These tend to be longer lasting and more severe than other types. Cathy needed a prescription medication to relieve her crushing pain.

Cathy, Migraine Sufferer: I know the days that I'm going to be really bad, so I really try to plan my life accordingly. I get up earlier so that I can take the medication. Because it takes about an hour for the medication to kick in.

ANNOUNCER: Having control over her migraines has made a world of difference.

Cathy, Migraine Sufferer: That's the best part, that you feel like there's a way to treat this and you can go on with your life.

ANNOUNCER: Thanks for joining us on today's Once Daily.

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