PCOS & Migraine: A Largely Unexplored Comorbid Relationship

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition occurring in women, which is characterized by a wide ranging set of symptoms, including:

  • infrequent or irregular periods
  • infertility / inability to ovulate (PCOS is the most common cause of infertility)
  • ovarian cysts
  • weight gain
  • thinning hair
  • hair growth on face, chest, stomach, back, etc.
  • depression and/or anxiety
  • acne

By some estimates five million American women are living with PCOS.

Researchers believe PCOS is rooted in hormonal imbalance and insulin resistance. The ovaries of women living with PCOS make more male hormones than those of other women, which affects the ability of the ovaries to release eggs. Many women with PCOS have too much insulin in their bodies because their bodies don’t efficiently use it, which encourages the pancreas to produce more and more to try to meet the body’s needs. Researchers believe it is the presence of this excess insulin that leads to the production of too many male hormones in the bodies of women living with PCOS.

A genetic predisposition for PCOS is likely because women with PCOS are more likely than other women to have a mother or sister who also has PCOS.

We don’t know as much as we’d like about the connection between PCOS and migraine. However, we do know that many people living with migraine also live with insulin resistance.

Despite the fact that almost no research has been done on the connection between PCOS and migraine, if you spend any time on a PCOS message board you’ll quickly see an alarming trend: Many, many women living with PCOS also live with unrelenting migraine attacks. And often when one problem starts to get better, the other does, too.

In researching for this article I found exactly one research study on the possible relationship between migraine and PCOS. It was a poorly constructed study with a tiny sample size. Further, it didn’t even look at a possible overlap between migraine and PCOS, instead focusing on the vague term headache and PCOS. Needless to say, it didn’t give us any useful information.

We desperately need more research about the possible relationship between PCOS and migraine. Knowing more about where the conditions overlap could be incredibly helpful in learning more about what happens in each condition individually and would help us get the right treatment for women living with both conditions.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
View References
1. “Polycystic Ovary Syndrome Fact Sheet.” WomensHealth.gov. Last updated March 17, 2010. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/polycystic-ovary-syndrome.cfm 2. Rainero, Innocenzo, et al. “Insulin sensitivity is impaired in patients with migraine.” Cephalalgia 2005; 25:593-597. 3. Casucci, Gerardo. “Migraine and Metabolism.” Neurological Sciences 2012; 33:81-85.

Comments

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  • steena921
    2 months ago

    I came here today, hoping to find some stories that would help me decide whether to explore botox at my appt on Thurs. I’ve been using the Ajovy injections for a few months, (The headaches aren’t gone, there seems to be a reduction in severity, and definitely some reduction in duration). I haven’t had to use a fioricet since Sept, BUT I’m still taking the maxalt and Excedrin, which seems to abort or lessen the pain, much better than it did before the ajovy. I started using the Migraine Buddy app a few months ago, and there is a serious trend between when my body tries to ovulate, finally ovulates, and during the time leading up to a menstrual cycle and during the cycle. I have PCOS, so its a struggle for my body to go through the phases. My headaches are constant, and the migraines are horrific during those weeks. I get a few good days post ovulation and prior to the period, and a few more good days post period, before my body decides, we’re going to try this insanity again! My rationale is, botox wont change my hormones, so how will it help with the headaches? Same with the ajovy, its like it doesn’t stop them, just maybe dulls them down a touch, and instead of having a full blown migraine, my freaking eye will twitch for hours, my head will start to hurt, and I just wait for the inevitable. In the past, prior to the injections, I feel as though it was more constant, now there are peaks and valleys, so I do get more moments of relief. I just really don’t want to put more crap into my body, toxins, if its not going to HELP! Has anyone with PCOS and hormonal migraines used Botox with any relief?!?

  • 6 years ago

    Thanks Diana so much for this article. I don’t have PCOS, but have suffered another form of hormone imbalance, PMDD, alongside menstrual migraines ever since my teens. Thank goodness there are some doctors now that are starting to specialize in women’s mood, hormone and headache disorders. We need more of them! There is clearly much more work to be done in understanding how our hormones affect migraine and how to best treat those of us who are dealing with these co-morbid conditions. Thanks for bringing awareness to this issue.

  • suzizobair
    6 years ago

    I have PCOS (Diagnosed over 10 years ago) and I have migraines. Many of my family members have symptoms of PCOS but have never been officially diagnosed, and also suffer from migraines. My hormones and blood sugar levels definitely trigger my migraines. PCOS is a complex syndrome which is not yet fully understood by doctors and therefore, there is very little data and/or support for us. Dr’s tend to just treat the symptoms, one by one, rather than looking into a long term overall solution. There’s been no progress since I was first diagnosed and I suffer in a variety of ways daily, not least with the migraines which can last for days at a time.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    6 years ago

    Hi suzi, My daughter has PCOS and her GYN has been very helpful. She did go to an endocrinologist who was “supposed” to be good. When she was describing her symptoms to him at her first appointment, I could tell he was not going to work out. One of her problems is irregular periods. He didn’t seem to think this was an issue. REALLY? So I fired his sorry butt!!

  • Garangwyn
    6 years ago

    I never knew I had PCOS…but by your description, I did. Both of my ovaries were removed in 1998 due to an ovarian cyst that was growing. My grandmother had died at age 68 from ovarian cancer, and since I had already had a partial hysterectomy (due to fibroid tumors) 6 years prior, my gynecologist and I decided it was best to remove the ovaries and be safe since I would not be having any more children, and was nearing menopausal age. The more I read, the more comorbities it seems I have that are being connected to my migraines…Name a symptom, and I have had it! I might have something more intelligent to say about this except that I have a migraine right now…

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    6 years ago

    No worries jennifer. A migraine symptom for some can be difficulty finding words and difficulty concentrating just to name two. Here is some more information on migraine symptoms; https://migraine.com/migraine-aura/other-migraine-aura-symptoms/

  • Achinghead
    6 years ago

    My 27 yr old daughter has PCOS and also suffers from migraines. My family has a history of migraines. No one else in the family has a history of PCOS.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    6 years ago

    My daughter also has PCOS and migraine. I’m pretty sure she gets the PCOS from her father’s side of the family. One less things she can blame me for later in life!!

  • debbiedionne
    6 years ago

    I just wanted to say that I have pcos. I was lucky enough to have two children. I was using birth control pills to “control” if there is such a thing my pcos symptoms until I had a DVT in 2000 when I was 36 years old. I am now taking aldactone and metformin to help the pcos. My blood insulin levels when I began taking the metformin was at 99. I have also suffered from “headaches” since I was a young child. I have worn glasses since the age of 4, I was finally diagnosed with migraines when I was 13 years old, I have to have transitional lenses. I am highly sensitive to sound, light and scents. I would also like to mention that I also have other comorbid conditions such as deprssion, anxiety, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis,possible ra, sygren’s. I have also lost 127 lbs since 2008. Oh, I also had 2/3rds of my large colon removed when I was 30 years old due to colonic enertia, later attributed to my fibromyalgia, I had been drinking maalox since I was 5 years old (no I’m not kidding), I was diagnosed as a stressed out kid.

    I agree that more research needs to be done in this area.

  • Nancy Harris Bonk moderator
    6 years ago

    Thanks for sharing your story with us debbie. Stress can do awful things to our bodies, making illness and life that much worse. Hang in there.

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