Estrogen is an important hormone during puberty — it helps girls develop breasts, grow curves and begin to menstruate. Unfortunately, studies also show that estrogen can also trigger a migraine, the name for a type of headache that causes localized head pain, dizziness, nausea and loss of equilibrium.
Today we’re going to discuss why so many puberty causes migraines — and what you can do to alleviate these painful headaches.
Why Puberty Triggers Migraines
Although all women produce estrogen, the body does not truly begin to produce this hormone until puberty, which allows the body to mature. After puberty, the body produces estrogen — and other female sex hormones — regularly throughout a woman’s natural menstrual cycle, with estrogen levels rising each day until the body ovulates.
The rise in estrogen levels also affects the neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine and serotonin.
Health experts believe that serotonin specifically reduces blood flow to the brain, an effect that has been theorized as the main cause of migraines. When the brain does not receive enough blood, it forces the arteries to compensate by dilating, which causes the release of pain-causing substances called prostaglandins. This creates the familiar throbbing sensation of migraines.
This effect may explain why women are more prone to having migraines than men — and why more women experience migraines during and after puberty.
Puberty and Migraines: How to Treat it
Now that we know why puberty triggers migraines, what can women do about this debilitating condition?
1. Know that migraines can be treated, regardless of your age. There are several medications or supplements available to reduce migraine pain, even if you are a teenager. NSAIDs are great for reducing mild to moderate migraine pain during puberty, as are some narcotic pain medications.
2. Avoid common migraine triggers. This includes fatigue, alcohol and some types of food, such as chocolate or dairy products. Although it will not prevent all attacks, it can help reduce its frequency.
3. Have a treatment plan available. If you’re going through puberty, you can’t always carry pain-reducing medications with you during school, but you can use other methods to reduce localized pain. Massaging your temples, covering your head with a cold compress, and resting in a dark, quiet room are excellent ways to reduce the throbbing and nauseating pain of migraines.
Although puberty can increase your risk for painful migraines, that doesn’t mean its untreatable — and these tips will help improve your quality of life.