Women who suffer from migraines may be able to safely use hormone therapy to treat menopause symptoms, according to a study.
The study of 85,000 U.S. women found no evidence that hormone therapy carried a particular risk of heart attack or stroke among those with a history of migraine headaches.
The possibility had been a concern, primarily based on research of younger women with migraines. Those studies linked birth control pills to a small risk of stroke, especially among young women who had “aura” migraines. Less had been known about any risks of hormone replacement therapy, said Dr. Jelena Pavlovic, the lead researcher on the new study.
“Low and Slow”
While it appears, for now, that hormone therapy is safe for women with migraines in terms of their cardiovascular risk, the general advice is for women to talk to their doctor about the benefits and risks of hormone therapy — and to start “low and slow.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that women only use hormone therapy at the lowest dose and for the shortest length of time needed to ease menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.
Hormone Therapy Now Deemed to be OK
Doctors have been cautious about menopausal hormone therapy ever since 2002, when results were reported from a large U.S. government study called the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI).
It found that women who were given menopausal hormone therapy — with estrogen and progestin, or estrogen alone — faced health risks. They included heightened odds of breast cancer, blood clots and stroke.
Since then, studies have suggested the situation is more nuanced. Hormone therapy seems safer, for example, for relatively younger women at the beginning of menopause. (Women in the WHI were, on average, in their early 60s.)
Until now… It had been unclear whether women with migraines can safely go on hormone therapy.
It’s estimated that migraines affect 1 in every 4 women in the U.S.
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