Thyroid And Migraine Headaches: What Do They Have To Do With Each Other?

Written and verified by Holly Hazen


I have low thyroid and migraine headaches. Chronic, nasty, debilitating migraine attacks that last for days. (Too much?) And that raised the question "Can migraines be caused by thyroid problems?"

There are conditions that can occur at the same time but independently of each other. The term for this is comorbid. Thyroid diseases, like hypothyroidism, are among the conditions that are known to be comorbid with chronic migraine.

The thyroid is a gland located in the front of your neck. The primary function of your thyroid gland is to secrete thyroid hormones. The thyroid hormones are involved in regulating many of your bodily functions, such as your breathing, heart rate, temperature, how quickly you burn calories, your metabolism and digestion, and more. [4]

Other endocrine glands (hypothalamus, pituitary, pineal, parathyroid, thymus, adrenal and pancreas) that secret hormones may also play a role in the development of a migraine headache. Problems in any of these areas then, can also contribute to the failure of responding well to treatment.

Can Migraines Be Caused By Thyroid Problems? @migrainesavvyCan Migraines Be Caused By Thyroid Problems?

The endocrine system is a network of glands and organs located throughout your body. It’s similar to the nervous system in that it plays a vital role in controlling and regulating many of your body’s functions. However, while the nervous system uses nerve impulses and neurotransmitters for communication, the endocrine system uses chemical messengers called hormones. [2]

Hormones are secreted by the glands of the endocrine system, traveling through the bloodstream to various organs and tissues in the body. The hormones then tell these organs and tissues what to do or how to function. [2]

This is all quite complicated, but here's how I keep it simple in my own mind.

The thyroid gland produces two hormones – Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4). T3 and T4 regulate your body’s temperature, metabolism and heart rate. [4]

The amount of thyroid hormones secreted is controlled by another hormone, called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which is released from the pituitary gland in your brain. TSH stimulates the thyroid to make T3 and T4. [3]

Your thyroid needs iodine in order to manufacture these thyroid hormones. Iodine is a chemical element that’s an essential part of our diet. Foods that are naturally rich in iodine include seafood and plants grown in iodine-rich soil like seaweed. Iodised salt is another good source of dietary iodine. [4]

Low Thyroid and Migraine Headaches are Connected

The endocrine glands and hormones play a significant role and it is suggested that if you live with migraine, you need to have your hormone, thyroid, and cortisol levels checked. Why migraine and other conditions occur together is not fully understood yet, but there are definite connections. Looking at the whole picture and taking all conditions into account, can help you make improvements in your migraine management strategy.

A recent study published in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain found that thyroid and migraine headaches had a strong connection with 21% of people who suffered a pre-existing headache condition were more likely to develop hypothyroidism. For migraine sufferers, that number jumps to 41%.

~ NIH [1]

Thyroid conditions have different side effects that can initiate an attack. One of the things that happen frequently is with hypothyroidism, your metabolism slows down. Along with this, your circulation also slows down and your body starts to retain mucin and water. Mucin is a glycoprotein and what it does is a little complicated but basically it would help cause the edema in the brain to escalate the migraine. The blood vessels and even the tissues within the brain start to swell. Along with this swelling comes the onset of a migraine.

Dealing With Thyroid and Migraine Headaches

Think about what other factors can be triggers for your migraine attacks. Fatigue is a common trigger with a lot of people. Fatigue accompanies hypothyroidism. Do you get a migraine when you get too tired? Fatigue can contribute to migraine because it causes an accumulation of waste products, dilation of blood vessels, and swelling of tissues, including the brain.

Can Migraines Be Caused By Thyroid Problems?

No. Remember that thyroid disease is not the actual cause of a migraine. It can be a trigger. The problem is the side effects that the different thyroid diseases have... also have the ability to be a trigger that brings on an attack. The fact that thyroid problems often go undiagnosed for years, makes the evaluation and treatment of the two more difficult.

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Thyroid disease is not the actual cause of a migraine. The problem is the side effects, learn more @migrainesavvyThyroid and Migraine Headaches. Your thyroid is not the actual cause of a migraine. The problem is the side effects being a trigger.

The most important thing you need to do is to get an accurate diagnosis on both fronts: thyroid and migraine. Go to your physician and have a complete exam. Discuss your medical history, your family's medical history, and your symptoms in detail.

There is still no test to diagnose migraine, but there are tests that can show thyroid problems. After all the testing is done and diagnosis is made, then talk with your physician to come up with a plan for treatment of both.

Having more than one disease can complicate things and be more of a challenge. You want to get as much information as possible and educate yourself about both conditions. This is very important in order to help you to deal with the problems they will present. If you have a thyroid disease, treating it and getting your thyroid hormones under control might possibly help reduce some of the migraine triggers, and this can reduce your migraine attacks.

And we all want that - NO attacks is the best outcome for sure.

Until next time, be well and be pain free.

Until next time, be well and be pain free, Holly @migrainesavvy




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Thyroid and migraine headaches post reference:
1. NHI (2020) Thyroid and Migraines, Understanding the Connection. Available [online] at: https://nationalheadacheinstitute.com/blog/thyroid-and-migraines-relationship/
2. Basina, M. M.D. (2022) Endocrine System Overview. Available [online] at: https://www.healthline.com/health/the-endocrine-system   Accessed June 5, 2022.
3. Thyroid - Wikipedia (2022) Available [online] at:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/THYROID
4.  Fanaei, Dr. (2018) What hormones does the thyroid gland secrete? Available [online] at: http://ahmadfanaei.com/en/what-hormones-does-the-thyroid-gland-secrete/