Are you more likely to develop hypothyroidism if you have a history of headaches?
by Deena Kuruvilla, MD
Hypothyroidism is a disorder in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism affects 0.1-2% of the general population while cases of subclinical hypothyroidism are more prevalent at 4-10%. The International classification of headache disorders describes headaches attributed to hypothyroidism as “Headache, usually bilateral and non-pulsatile, in patients with hypothyroidism and remitting after normalization of thyroid hormone levels.” Recent supporting literature has shown that not only is migraine more common in hypothyroidism but also, that treatment with thyroid hormone medication can result in a decrease in headache frequency by almost 78%. In contrast, this month, in the journal Headache, the University of Cincinnati reported that new onset hypothyroidism is 21% more prevalent in headache disorders and 41% more prevalent in migraine specifically. They followed 8,412 patients for an average of 12.6 years and came to this conclusion after regularly checking thyroid function after an initial diagnosis of headache. These important associations highlight hypothyroidism and migraine as essential co-existing conditions which should be considered and addressed in sync.