Hypothyroidism And Migraines

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Study Suggests Hypothyroidism May Be An Underlying Factor In Migraines

Headaches can be disabling and occur at the most unexpected times, leading to impairment in productivity and function in the workplace, as well as other possible complications.

There are different types of headaches that a person can experience. A migraine is, by far, the most unpleasant type of a headache. Migraines affect approximately 14.7% of the worldwide population, and as much as 2% of the population is suffering from chronic migraines1.

Many possible causes have been linked to the development of migraines, including stress, exposure to a sharp light, and allergies. A recent study has suggested that patients should also be aware of the fact that a possible connection may exist between hypothyroidism and migraines, suggesting that chronic migraines may call for blood tests to determine levels of Thyroid hormone in the patient’s body.

Even though hypothyroidism is not as common of a condition as migraines, this study has provided evidence that a link does exist between the two. While the development of chronic migraines may not guarantee the presence of low Thyroid hormone levels, patients should at least consider this possibility.

Treatment for hypothyroidism is relatively simple and can yield positive effects when migraines are affected by a low level of Thyroid hormones.

Thyroid Hormones And The Human Body

Thyroid hormones play an essential role in the maintenance of a healthy body. There are two primary types of Thyroid hormones, including Thyroxine and Triiodothyronine. These hormones are often referred to as T3 (Triiodothyronine) and T4 (Thyroxine).

Both of these hormones are produced and secreted into the bloodstream by the Thyroid gland, a part of the endocrine system. The Thyroid gland is found in the neck area and produces Thyroid hormones in response to the release of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone from the Pituitary gland.

Thyroid hormones are involved in the regulation of metabolism in the adult human body, as well as in the overall development of children and adolescents. The majority of the hormones produced by the Thyroid gland consists of Thyroxine, which is not considered the active type of hormone.

A series of enzymes, known as D2 or 5’-deiodinase type 2, converts Thyroxine into the active form of Thyroid hormones2, which is Triiodothyronine. Each cell in the body depends on a healthy supply of Thyroid hormones for normal functionality.

What Patients Should Know About Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a relatively common condition amongst women and is also present in a relatively small number of men. The condition is estimated to affect anything between 1% and 2% of the global population3 and is also known to be much more common in regions with low dietary iodine intake.

The condition is diagnosed when a patient has a deficiency in Thyroid hormones in their bloodstream.

Due to the fact that Thyroid hormones are known to assist in regulating the metabolism of the human body at a cellular level, hypothyroidism can cause a significant level of complications in the body.

Symptoms That Should Not Be Ignored

Education about potential symptoms that may develop when the Thyroid’s function becomes impaired is vital for the general population, especially since Thyroid disorders are considered to be the most prevalent types of endocrine diseases to affect the human race. The Thyroid gland supplies hormones to every cell in the body and these hormones are essential for cellular metabolism, as well as for digestive metabolism. For this reason, a great number of different symptoms have been associated with an underactive Thyroid gland.

It is important to understand that, in many cases, an underactive Thyroid will not cause immediate symptoms4. Instead, it can take a while before a patient starts to experience symptoms. Symptoms may be mild at first, but will usually continue to become more severe due to the body’s lack of Thyroid hormones.

Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms associated with hypothyroidism. The patient may start to notice that they are not able to get through the day without feeling tired. Fatigue may not only affect their physical performance but can also start to interfere with their cognitive abilities. This may include memory loss, as well as problems with concentration and alertness.

Another common symptom that many patients notice when they develop hypothyroidism is unexpected weight gain. They may continue to eat like they do every day, yet suddenly start to gain weight. This is due to the slower metabolism imposed by a lack of Thyroid hormones, as well as inadequate distribution and processing of fat within their digestive system.

Other symptoms that may also develop when the Thyroid gland is unable to produce an adequate amount of hormones include:

  • The patient may become more sensitive to cold temperatures.
  • The patient’s skin may become dry, and they may experience thinning hair.
  • Muscle weakness, often accompanied by muscle stiffness and tenderness, are also relatively common.
  • Women may find that their menstrual cycle becomes irregular and heavier than usual.
  • Heart rate may become slower.
  • Cholesterol levels may become elevated.
  • Joints may be affected by pain, inflammation, and
  • The patient’s face may start to appear puffy.
  • Digestive symptoms, such as constipation, may also develop.

Diagnosis Of Hypothyroidism

The diagnosis of hypothyroidism is a relatively simple procedure. A physician who expects a patient may have hypothyroidism can order blood tests, which is usually performed at a laboratory of choice. The blood will be examined to determine the level of certain hormones that are present in the patient’s body.

The scientists involved in the analysis of the blood will usually test to see how much Thyroxine (T4) and Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is present in the patient’s blood. Once the tests have been performed, the physician will be able to get a better idea as to whether the symptoms experienced by the patient may be caused by an underactive Thyroid or rather another issue that they may have developed.

In the modern healthcare systems, however, many physicians start out with a simple TSH test and then proceed from there – if abnormalities with the TSH level of the patient is observed, then further tests to determine free T4 may also be ordered5.

Study Finds A Link Between Hypothyroidism And Migraines

A 20-year study that was recently completed, published on the Wiley Online Library6, monitored the possible link that exists between headache disorders, including migraines, and hypothyroidism. While data has previously suggested an association between these two conditions, the specific direction in which the association laid was not yet known. The purpose of this study was to provide more accurate details on the connection.

Participants who were involved in the study were all affected by headache disorders, with a large number of participants complaining about frequent migraines. Blood tests to determine Thyroid function were conducted every three years until the program was completed. At the end of the program, 7% of the participants had developed hypothyroidism – an underactive Thyroid.

The researchers who were involved in the study explains that their findings suggest that migraines may be a risk factor for the development of hypothyroidism. While further studies will still need to be conducted to determine the physiology behind this connection, they have found that people who suffer from frequent migraines should have their Thyroid function tested frequently. The migraines mean the individual is at a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism. Appropriate education about hypothyroid symptoms can also help these individuals identify the endocrine disorder early on, leading to more effective treatment and faster restoration of normal Thyroid hormone levels in their body.

Treatment Options For Hypothyroidism

Different treatment options have been introduced for the management of hypothyroidism and to help restore normal levels of Thyroid hormones in a patient’s body. At the moment, the most effective and preferred method of treatment that is used among patients who have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism is Thyroid Hormone Therapy. This treatment protocol utilizes a synthetic version of Thyroxine, the “pro-hormone” produced by the Thyroid gland – this compound is known as Levothyroxine.

It is vital for a patient to be diagnosed with hypothyroidism prior to the administration of Levothyroxine. Blood tests need to be ordered to help a physician determine how low the patient’s Thyroid hormone levels are. This data is then used to determine the most effective dosage of Levothyroxine for the patient. Many patients find that some initial adjustments in the dosage of the Levothyroxine they take are needed for them to find the perfect dosage – if the dosage is too low, then symptoms of hypothyroidism may continue, and if the dosage is too high, then the patient is at risk of developing hypothyroidism symptoms.

Levothyroxine is sold under a number of different brand names. The most popular brand names of Thyroid Hormone Therapy medication prescribed to patients with hypothyroidism include Levothroid and Synthroid. Both of these drugs can be provided to the patient at different dosages.

During the treatment of hypothyroidism, it is important for the patient to understand that their Thyroid function may change over time. For this reason, it is vital that the patient undergo further Thyroid function testing – usually once every year. The physician in charge of the patient’s treatment plan will be able to detect any changes in the patient’s Thyroid function and make appropriate adjustments to the dosage of Levothyroxine that they are taking. If the Thyroid function has improved, then their dosage will be reduced. If it seems like the patient’s Thyroid function has worsened, then the physician will most likely increase their dosage of Levothyroxine in order to accommodate the additional reduction in Thyroid hormones that have been detected.

Patients should also monitor their own performance on Levothyroxine. If they continue to experience symptoms associated with hypothyroidism, they should report this to their physician for an increase in their Levothyroxine dosage. Should the patient start to experience symptoms that are associated with hyperthyroidism, such as rapid and unexpected weight loss, this should also be mentioned to their physician so that their dosage of Levothyroxine can be lowered accordingly.


When a migraine strikes, it can feel like life goes into a standstill. These sudden severe headaches can be very unfortunate, especially if they strike at an unexpected time, such as just before walking into an important meeting. A new study found that a link may exist between chronic migraines and hypothyroidism, which makes it essential for patients with frequent migraines to obtain the appropriate tests to determine whether they may have a low level of Thyroxine in their body, indicating the possibility that the migraines may be affected by hypothyroidism.

In this post, we provided an overview of hypothyroidism, including symptoms that a patient should look out for. The presence of these symptoms, along with frequent migraines, makes it even more important for a patient to have blood tests done. Testing for hypothyroidism is quick and simple, and treatment to restore normal levels of Thyroid hormone is considered both safe and effective.


1 Key facts and figures about migraine. The Migraine Trust. https://www.migrainetrust.org/about-migraine/migraine-what-is-it/facts-figures/

2 Multiple Authors. Thyroid Hormone Regulation of Metabolism. APS Physiological Reviews. April 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4044302/

3 M.P.J. Vanderpump. The epidemiology of thyroid disease. British Medical Bulletin. 1 September 2011. https://academic.oup.com/bmb/article/99/1/39/298307

4 Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284

5 Pathophysiology and Diagnosis of Thyroid Disease. Medicare Coverage of Routine Screening for Thyroid Dysfunction. 2003. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK221541/

6 Multiple Authors. Headache Disorders May Be a Risk Factor for the Development of New Onset Hypothyroidism. The Journal of Head and Face Pain. 27 September 2016. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/head.12943

1 Comment
  1. Reply
    Crystal November 26, 2018 at 10:37 pm

    Levothyroxine doesn’t work for every case, as some doctors think. Some people can’t convert the T4 in levothyroxine to the active T3 hormone and need an additional T3 supplement. This can be natural desiccated thyroid or liothyronine. It definitely didn’t work for me. I chose Armour Thyroid, which is a desiccated thyroid supplement. We’re trying to adjust it because I started having symptoms about September 2018. I’m pretty sure my headaches are connected to my thyroid issues, but don’t know how to resolve them, or at least make them tolerable.

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