Menstrual migraine is a chronic disorder affecting approximately 12.6 million women in the United States. In spite of its widespread prevalence, menstrual migraine often goes undiagnosed.
Characteristics of menstrual migraine, which include functional disability, increased headache severity, and lack of aura, are often overlooked, and therefore menstrual migraine is often underdiagnosed. Use of a 3-month diary to record migraine patterns can reveal the predictable patterns associated with menstrual migraine, and a diary is demonstrated to be a useful tool in diagnosis. Optimal treatment of menstrual migraine takes advantage of the predictability of the disorder. Treatment alternatives for menstrual migraine include acute therapy and short- or long-term preventive therapies. Acute therapy is given shortly after the migraine begins. Short-term preventive therapies are effective when administered during the time that menstrual migraine is most likely to occur; the treatment window is typically 2 days prior up to 3 days after the onset of menstruation. Providing triptans, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or estrogen supplements (gel or patches) during this window has been demonstrated to provide effective protection during the days when patients are at greatest risk for menstrual migraine. Alternatively, long-term preventive therapy may be required for recurrent headaches in patients with concomitant medical conditions for whom migraine therapy could serve a dual purpose.
By recognizing the patterns associated with menstrual migraine, prompt, acute, or preventive therapy can be used to effectively manage the disorder and reduce its related disability.