Thyroid disease is considered a comorbid condition for headaches and migraines. This means that although it occurs independently of the headaches it still can intensify them and can also make treatment much more complex. A comorbid condition may have an enormous effect on the provision and success of medical treatment.
Thyroid diseases, including hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, are among the conditions now known to often coexist with headaches and migraines.
A great deal of research focus in headaches involves the connection between headaches and female hormones when, in fact, endocrine hormones are also extremely important in headache aetiology. Genuine migraine headaches are not directly caused by thyroid disease. The abnormal high and low levels of thyroid hormones that are characteristic of thyroid disease can, however, intensify migraines. Any disease of the thyroid gland can impact virtually every organ in the body so it is not surprising that headaches are often intensified when a person also suffers from thyroid disease.
Thyroid disease is also much more likely to occur in women than men and when you take into account the effect of female hormones on headaches, women can be hit particularly hard with intense headache pain. The effects of thyroid disease on menstruation itself further compound the problem and can alter headache and migraine patterns.
Hypothyroidism results from an under-functioning thyroid gland. Some of the symptoms of thyroid disease include:
* Weight gain
* Altered menstrual cycle
* Hair loss
* Muscle pains
Hyperthyroidism results from an overactive thyroid gland. Migraines may be prompted through an increase in oestrogen levels noted in people who suffer from hyperthyroidism. Eye problems experienced with a hyperactive thyroid can also lead to headaches and migraines, with pain centred around the eye area. Other symptoms that may be present in hyperthyroidism are:
* Weight loss
* Altered menstrual cycle
* Greater frequency in bowel movements
* Fast heart beat
Handling Headaches and Thyroid Disease
If you suspect that your headaches may be related to thyroid disease, you should see your doctor. He or she will likely have blood tests performed to determine endocrine hormone levels and to rule out any other disease states that may be causing or affecting your headaches.
For hypothyroidism, treatment usually involves a daily dose of synthetic thyroid hormone. For hyperthyroidism, there are a couple of anti-thyroid drugs available that your doctor will likely prescribe for you. Treatment depends on the level of the disease as well as other factors such as your age. If your periods have been irregular due to thyroid disease, correcting your hormones will likely help get your menstrual cycle regulated and this may also help to improve your headaches. Beta-blockers may be prescribed in addition to a primary thyroid drug, and these are also effective in treating headaches.
For immediate relief, you can usually safely take over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen but do check with your doctor first. Although alternative therapies that are focused on relaxation may be helpful, if it is determined that you have thyroid disease, you will most likely have to take medication. Any treatments for stress can still provide benefits but can’t replace synthetic hormone thyroid medication. Fortunately there have been enough advances in thyroid treatment that you can generally expect to get your symptoms under control, including your headaches.