Conference Coverage

How Does Migraine Change During the Menopausal Transition?

Migraine may worsen or change its pattern for many women approaching menopause.


SAN FRANCISCO—Most women with migraine develop migraine pattern change, worsening migraine, or new-onset migraine at the age of menopause, according to a study presented at the 60th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Headache Society. These changes most often occur during the perimenopausal or postmenopausal stages.

Previous research indicates that the prevalence and frequency of migraine are higher in perimenopausal women than in other women. Yu-Chen Cheng, MD, MPH, a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues investigated patterns of migraine in women at menopausal age (ie, age 40–60) with migraine who presented to the Partners Healthcare Hospitals. The investigators reviewed participants’ medical records, brain image reports, and laboratory data, including levels of estradiol and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

In their retrospective study, Dr. Cheng and colleagues identified 81 patients with concurrent diagnoses of migraine and menopause who had clinical data available. They excluded patients with missing or inaccessible data, as well as patients with organic brain lesions such as those associated with multiple sclerosis or brain tumor. The researchers included 69 patients in the study.

Sixty patients (86.96%) had a history of migraine, and the other nine patients (13.04%) had new-onset migraine. Among participants with a history of migraine, 35 (58.33%) had a change in migraine pattern or worsening of their migraine headaches. The investigators categorized patients in this group as having migraine worsening (60.00%), migraine pattern change (28.57%), worsening related to other cause (8.57%), and not sure (2.86%). Twenty-five patients with migraine history were stable and had no change in the pattern of their headaches.

Dr. Cheng and colleagues also examined the population’s menopausal status when they had migraine change or worsening or new migraine. Among patients with migraine history, nine of 35 (25.71%) were at the perimenopausal stage, 12 (34.29%) were postmenopausal, five (14.29%) were premenopausal, three (8.57%) had worsening because of other causes, and three (8.57%) did not have records on their menopausal status. For patients with new-onset migraine, three of nine (33%) were perimenopausal, three (33%) were postmenopausal, and one (11.11%) was premenopausal.

Among patients with new-onset migraine, brain MRI was normal in 44.44%, showed pituitary abnormality in 22.22%, and showed other brain lesion in 33.33%. In patients with migraine history, brain MRI was normal in 45%, showed pituitary abnormality in 8.3%, showed nonspecific T2 high white matter lesion in 16.67%, and showed other brain lesion in 11.67%.

“Identifying migraine worsening or new-onset migraine during the menopausal transition age may help the diagnosis and treatment optimization of migraine for women during the menopausal age,” said Dr. Cheng.

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