A woman clutches her head, wincing.

Headaches and Lupus

One of my main recurring symptoms of lupus is headaches. I seem to constantly go through phases where I get different types of them, but most days, I find that I need to take pain medication for them.

I have read that headaches are common among people with lupus. Some doctors have told me that headaches and migraines develop during the active stages of the disease when lupus inflames the central nervous system.

Migraines before lupus

Before I was diagnosed with lupus, I started getting migraines. I remember waking up one morning, and I felt like something was seriously wrong as my head was throbbing, and whenever I moved it, the pain would intensify. I then realized that any type of light hurt my eyes, and I felt nauseous.

My migraine/headache triggers

These have continued for many years, I can go months without having one, but when they strike, I know it's going to be a rough ride as I pretty much have to shut myself away until they pass. I don't know if they are connected to having lupus, but I'd say there's a good chance as I seem to get them when I'm in a flare-up. I also find sun exposure to be a trigger. Other triggers include:

  • Food sensitives
  • Weather
  • Hormones
  • Stress
  • Medications
  • Drinking alcohol

Cluster headaches with lupus

Another type of headache I've experienced is cluster headaches. They are peculiar because they only affect one side of the head; for me, it's always behind the eyes. It feels like I've got a bruise behind only one of them when they happen. They can be painful, making activities such as reading very uncomfortable.

Perhaps the most common headache for me feels like a tension headache where the muscles in my forehead feel very sensitive.

Sometimes it's hard to gauge if the headaches we experience are a direct result of having lupus or are playing a secondary role, such as one of the reasons I have mentioned above as stress.

I am very sensitive to stress, and I find that my lupus symptoms become more active when I'm stressed, so it can be hard to know for sure.

Tips for managing lupus headaches

Managing these headaches is important, and there's a variety of ways this can be done from my personal experience, which include:

  • Taking OTC pain medication
  • Taking prescription medication
  • Ensuring you have sufficient sleep
  • Acupuncture
  • Staying hydrated
  • Massage

Although I have never tried it, Botox has been used in treating migraines for quite some time. It's always important to talk to your doctor about the headaches you've been experiencing so they can examine you and decide the best course of investigation and treatments for you.

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