This article was first published in Health magazine, May 2009.
From eyestrain-induced headaches to memory loss, our resident headache expert, Christina Peterson, MD, author, The Womens Migraine Survival Guide, and founder of the Oregon Headache Clinic, weighs in.
Q: I get a killer migraine every time I have my period. It must be hormones, right?
A: For most women, hormone-related migraines occur a day or two before their periods, and may continue or occur again during their period. If you track your periods, you can try taking a mini-prevention medicine such as ibuprofen, Aleve, or aspirin before menstruation starts. Once the headache begins, your regular migraine medicine may help.
Migraines can flare up or even appear for the first time during perimenopause, when hormones are fluctuating like crazy. The good news is that headaches may diminish or go away once you fully enter menopause.
Q: Why do I wake up every morning with a headache?
A: You might have sleep apnea, a potentially serious condition in which your breathing stops and starts during sleep. Or you could be clenching or grinding your teeth while you sleep. If everything checks out OK with your doctor, you may want to consider investing in a new mattress or pillow. A lack of support can also lead to headaches.
Q: I get a headache from working on a computer all day. Help?
A: Youre probably suffering from eyestrain, in addition to stress from poor posture. Have an ergonomic evaluation done to make sure your workstation is set up correctly. (Some companies offer this service for employees, or you can request a physical therapy referral from your doctor.)
If you use a laptop, connect it to a larger monitor, which will be easier to read. During any computer work, take a two-minute stretch break every hour; set an e-mail alert if you need a reminder. If you wear glasses or contacts, make sure your eye doctor knows that you work at a computer; you may need a different correction for computer work and book work.
Q: My friend says headaches can cause memory loss. True?
A: Unless your headaches are frequent and severe, its unlikely that theyll cause any permanent problems. Recent evidence suggests that in some forms of migraine brain-cell loss can occur during the earliest beginning phases of the attackand thats why preventive treatment is so important if you have frequent migraines.