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Hypothyroidism and migraines

woman with headache isolated on white background

The thyroid gland is a powerful organ that is responsible for maintaining your metabolism and produces two important hormones that oversee the production of proteins and amino acids and maintains the body temperature, among others. But, these same hormones are known for causing all sorts of health conditions when the hormonal levels go out of proportion.

It’s no surprise that the thyroid gland is responsible for causing headaches and migraines when not up to par.

A migraine is a primary headache and is not normally ‘caused’ by any other disorder or disease. But, what is the connection between the thyroid function and headaches?

The thyroid gland and hypothyroidism

The butterfly-shaped thyroid gland is located in front of the neck, just below Adam’s apple or larynx. It sends instructions to the brain, specifically to the hypothalamus to secrete thyrotropin-releasing hormone (or TRH).

Once the TRH is released, the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH or thyrotropin) gets released by the pituitary gland. This, in turn, triggers the release of many other hormones, like the T3 and T4, which maintain the body’s metabolism among many other functions.

Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland, is one of the most common medical conditions affecting the populace of the US today. Hypothyroidism means that the thyroid gland is not producing enough T3 and T4 hormones. Because the thyroid is responsible for maintaining a number of body functions, a drop in the level of thyroid gland will lead to symptoms like headaches.

Headaches from hypothyroidism

A headache from hypothyroidism is located on both sides of the head and is constant, non-throbbing, and not associated with vomiting or nausea. Simply put, a headache in association with hypothyroidism feels more like a tension headache than a migraine episode.

But, according to research, there are many people with headaches from hypothyroidism, which were described as throbbing, one-sided, and linked to vomiting and nausea. This shows that headache symptoms differ drastically from person to person.

A headache associated with hypothyroidism interestingly follows the same course as that person’s hypothyroidism. It means that if the person’s hypothyroidism gets better, the headache gets better and vice versa.

Hypothyroidism and migraines

A migraine is a neurological disorder that is characterized by over-excitability of certain areas of the brain, often resulting in an intense throbbing pain or an intense pulsing. But, sometimes you won’t suffer from any head pain; instead, you will find yourself with symptoms like sensitivity to sound and light, vomiting, and nausea.

The connection between the insufficient productions of the thyroid hormone is subjected to some certain scenarios.  Theoretically, the inadequate thyroidal function results in a slower metabolism, in turn causing the body to retain mucin glycoprotein and fluid. Eventually, the process causes a swelling of the brain tissue and blood vessels, thereby causing a cerebral hyperactivity and triggering a migraine episode.

According to another study, it has been found out that hypothyroidism is more common in people who suffer from migraines more than the general population, suggesting a possible link between these two health problems. This study also stated that headaches related to hypothyroidism are rarely seen by medical experts, whereas on the other hand, it is common to see people with both, hypothyroidism and migraines.

Prelude to migraines

The accumulation of excessive fluid in the human tissue is called edema. According to endocrinologists, patients who suffer from both migraine conditions and hypothyroidism often notice the presence of edema before going through a migraine episode. Usually, edema is noticed in the lower extremities as patients suddenly realize things like their shoes have become tighter suddenly.

The accumulation of edema or any other mucous secretions lubricated by the human tissue is not limited to the hands and feet only. Brain tissue edema can cause prolonged headaches even in patients that don’t suffer from chronic migraines as well.

How can treating one improve the other?

According to medical experts, the effective treatment of hypothyroidism in patients suffering from a migraine results in a sharp drop of headache episodes. This improvement supports the basis for purely looking at migraines from a neurological point of view.

Hypothyroidism is not the only condition that triggers migraine headaches; some other migraine triggers include undue stress, anxiety, and depression (symptoms of hypothyroidism). In cases like these, it is of utmost importance you visit a doctor who can help you with T3 and T4 boosting medications if your migraine is a direct result of hypothyroidism.

Another common migraine trigger caused by hypothyroidism is fatigue. Extreme stress and exhaustion that ensues from not being able to relax or rest tends to produce physiological changes, thereby leading to cerebral excitability. The key to treatment here is simply getting enough rest and letting your body recuperate over time.

Final Thoughts

Migraine and hypothyroidism are both rarely life-threatening but can affect your daily life if left untreated. You must remain proactive in your healthcare. It is always advised that you discuss your concerns and symptoms with your doctor, even if you think they are not relevant. If there is a connection, treating one may help the other as well.

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