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Can hypothyroidism cause headaches?

Do you suffer from chronic headaches or migraines? One possible reason could be an underlying condition like hypothyroidism. Many people with thyroid issues may experience regular migraines, and studies suggest there likely is a link between the two. In today’s blog, we’ll explore the connection between hypothyroidism and headaches. Read on to learn more!

What is hypothyroidism?

First, a brief definition of hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is a condition where your thyroid gland is underactive and doesn’t produce sufficient thyroid hormones for your body to properly regulate metabolism, energy levels and other crucial functions.

An underactive thyroid gland can lead to a range of symptoms, such as:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
  • Depression and mood swings
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Cold intolerance
  • Muscle aches and stiffness
  • Irregular menstrual periods
  • Memory problems
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Headaches or migraines

There are several causes linked to hypothyroidism, which we’ll explore further in the next section.

Understanding this condition

Understanding hypothyroidism can help us make the connection between this condition and chronic headaches. As mentioned earlier, hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones, leading to a range of symptoms. But what is the cause?

Several causes are linked to hypothyroidism, which includes:

  • Hashimoto’s disease — Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the thyroid gland.
  • Thyroid surgery — Those who have had thyroid surgery may have a high risk of developing hypothyroidism.
  • Radiation therapy for cancer treatment — Those who received radiation therapy for cancer may have an increased risk of developing hypothyroidism.
  • Certain medications — Certain medications, like lithium, can contribute to hypothyroidism.

There are also several risk factors linked to hypothyroidism, including:

  • Family history — Studies suggest that hypothyroidism may be hereditary, and your chance of developing it may be higher if you have a close family member with the condition.
  • Gender — Women have a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism.
  • Autoimmune disorders — Individuals with autoimmune disorders may have a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism since these disorders can affect the functioning of the thyroid gland.

Now we understand a bit more about hypothyroidism and who might be more likely to have it, but how does this relate to headaches?

The link between hypothyroidism and migraines

Most people experience headaches at some point in their lives, but chronic headaches and more severe headaches, known as migraines, may be linked to underlying conditions like hypothyroidism. Living with migraines can be especially draining for those who have hypothyroidism due to the other symptoms that are characteristic of thyroid issues. 

Studies indicate that there is a fairly strong link between those with histories of migraines and hypothyroidism. According to the International Headache Society, around 30% of people with hypothyroidism have a history of headaches. However, the link between these two conditions isn’t entirely clear. Headaches could either be a symptom of an underactive thyroid, or they may indicate that someone has a higher risk for developing thyroid issues.

It’s possible that the lifestyle factors that result from hypothyroidism could also contribute to headache symptoms. Those with thyroid issues may experience fatigue, stress or sleep issues that exacerbate or trigger migraines.

Those with hypothyroidism may be able to manage their headache symptoms with thyroid hormone replacement therapy medications as prescribed by a health care professional. These medications may be able to help alleviate migraine symptoms along with the other symptoms that come with hypothyroidism.

However, it’s also worth noting that headaches can sometimes be a side effect of medications like levothyroxine. Those with moderate or severe thyroid issues may have to take higher doses of this medication, which can trigger headaches. It’s important to report any side effects of your medication to your health care professional so they can adjust your medication and dosage to fit your specific health profile. 

It's important to note that not everyone with hypothyroidism will experience headaches, and the severity and frequency of headaches can vary from person to person. However, recognizing the potential connection between hypothyroidism and headaches can help you and your health care professional develop the best possible treatment plan for your needs.

Factors that may contribute to headaches

It’s important to remember that headaches can have numerous causes, and while hypothyroidism may be a contributing factor, this may not always be the case. Additionally, those with hypothyroidism may be able to reduce headache symptoms by mitigating the other factors that contribute to headaches. Keep these factors in mind if you’re experiencing headaches:

  • Stress — Stress can be a major contributor to headache symptoms. Hypothyroidism can exacerbate stress as you try to manage the physical and mental toll the condition can sometimes take on you. It’s important to engage in stress management techniques such as meditation and self-care to try and lessen the effects of stress on your body.
  • Diet — Certain foods and ingredients can trigger headaches. Diets that are heavy in caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners and processed foods may trigger headaches in some individuals. Eating a balanced diet and ensuring you’re properly hydrated may help reduce the symptoms of headaches and migraines.
  • Hormone changes — Fluctuations in hormone levels can contribute to headache symptoms. This is especially the case for women when estrogen levels are changing during the menstrual cycle or pregnancies. Hypothyroidism can further complicate hormone fluctuations, potentially worsening headache symptoms.
  • Medications — As mentioned, the side effects of certain medications may cause headaches. Make sure to discuss your medications with your primary care provider to see if these could be the source of your headaches. They may be able to help you adjust your dosage or your medications to address these symptoms.

In short, while hypothyroidism can certainly be a contributing factor to headaches, it’s always a good idea to keep in mind that other factors may be causing your headaches as well. If you’re having regular or chronic headaches or migraines, it’s always a good idea to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider and let them know about your symptoms. Your provider will be able to help you develop a treatment plan that can help address your specific healthcare needs.

Connect with a doctor or online provider

If you need to connect with a primary care provider about your headache symptoms, consider connecting with a virtual telehealth provider. You can get started as soon as today with a provider like Circle Medical. Of course, those who prefer in-person appointments can also take advantage of our in-person health care services. Talking to a primary care provider will allow them to analyze your symptoms, diagnose any potential conditions and create a treatment plan that works best for you.

Book an appointment with a Circle Medical telehealth provider today!

Circle Medical is a full-stack primary care clinic that offers both in-person and online health care for your convenience. Many of our patients enjoy the ease of making their first appointment online and talking to a health care provider on the same day they book their appointment. Whether you prefer in-person care or online care, Circle Medical has you covered. Book your appointment with Circle Medical today to get started!

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