Hypothyroidism and migraines
Reviewed by Dr Shabina Siddiqi
This article will define hypothyroidism and explore the link between hypothyroidism and migraines. Whilst headaches are one of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism, the link between hypothyroidism and migraines is still unclear.
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is the term used to describe an underactive thyroid gland. An underactive thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones which are needed to help regulate the metabolism of the cells in your body. The lack of these hormones can cause your cells to slow down and hence many body functions can become sluggish.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism include, but are not limited to:
- Weight gain
- Depression and brain fog
- Low libido
- Muscle aches
- Dry skin
- Thinning hair
- Feeling sensitive to cold
- Irregular or heavy periods
- A tingling sensation in the fingers and hands
If you think you might be experiencing hypothyroidism, it is important to talk to a doctor. If left untreated, it can lead to problems such as cardiovascular disease and the development of a goitre. A goitre is caused by swelling of the thyroid gland, resulting in a lump at the front of the neck.
Hypothyroidism is more common in women – in the UK, 15 in every 1,000 women have an underactive thyroid, whereas one in every 1,000 men are affected.
Can hypothyroidism cause migraines?
Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism, but the link between hypothyroidism and migraines is not understood.
Having hypothyroidism may increase the risk of migraines. Roughly 30% of patients with hypothyroidism suffer from headaches in relation to their hypothyroidism.
In addition, a twenty year study published in 2016 determined that 7% of the participants with a headache disorder went on to receive a diagnosis for an underactive thyroid.
Treatment for hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is treated by taking a daily hormone replacement tablet called levothyroxine. If prescribed levothyroxine, you may start on a lower dose which your doctor might increase gradually after tests. It can take some time to get the dosage right.
Treatment for managing migraines
Many people get some relief from migraines using over the counter treatments, such as ibuprofen and paracetamol. They work best at the first signs of a migraine to allow time for them to absorb into the bloodstream.
If you get little to no relief from ibuprofen or paracetamol, your doctor may prescribe triptans, and something to settle nausea. Other treatments, such as Vydura (rimegepant), are available, but a consultation is always needed to determine if it’s the right treatment.
LloydsPharmacy Online Doctor’s migraine clinic can prescribe effective migraine relief following the completion of a consultation.