Getting desperate and can't decide what to do...Could iron deficiency and possible hypothyroid cause constant headache?

Hi - I've posted on here before so apologies for any duplication but I really want to find out if anyone has had a simliar experience?

I have had constant headache (pressure) for 3.5 months now (previous hormonal headaches so def prone to them but nothing like this). MRI scan clear and neurologist prescribed amitryptyline (which knocked me out) and then Topiramate which I am still reluctant to take - partly due to side effects and partly because I don't think underlying causes were investigated.

I requested my thyroid to be checked (private via neuro) and it came back borderline hypo but subsequent tests at NHS lab show different range and negative antibiodies and latest private ones - TSH 5.25 (range 0.4-6). I then got a referral to a private endocrinologist who retested thyroid (5.25) as well as iron levels (GP tests had shown i am not anemic). Iron tests showed low ferritin but in range (35) and iron serum and tranferrin saturation well below range. As a result I am taking iron tablets but no improvment as yet a week in. I have other symptoms such as constantly tired, heart palps (have done for 2yrs), bad circulation etc.

The headaches are so constant and wearing me down and i keep considering the topiramate but am scared to take it and also i can't see how I can then tell if any of my problems are caused by the iron deficiency and possible hypothyroidism given that I have only just started going down that road! So I am trying to hold out but really struggling as the only thing that makes any difference is Maxalt and i am only meant o take 3 per month. I am scared that I could spend a few weeks trying to get my iron up, then maybe try thyroxine and still end up nowwhere.

Has anyone here had this degree of headache from iron or thyroid problems or is it really not very likely to be responsible (and by that i mean possible making an existing predisposition much worse ie coexisting)? I don't feel i can deal with this much longer - trying to work f/t and 2 young kids.

thank you in advance

9 Replies

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  • Hi, this is a great forum for migraines and for your thyroid needs, you may need to join another to ask those questions. I find Thyroid UK very good, and they are also on this platform. If your results have come back borderline, it means you probably do have significant thyroid problems as the parameters for testing are too narrow anyway. They would answer all your questions and also interpret you results for you. Mary F x

  • Thanks Mary- I have postd previously on Thyroid UK. Was just hoping to find out if anyone else had suffered headaches/migraines that had ended up being attributed to thyroid or iron?

  • Hello ,maybe this info will help you:

    I have had migraines from age 18 to now, age 50. Their pattern has changed many times, from constant, 365 days of the year, to sporadic eg a few a month. But I have noticed that when I have another "problem" at the same time eg hypertension, iron deficiency anaemia, perimenopause, and countless others over the years that the migraines get miles worse. When the problem has been fixed the migraines go back to normal. May be when your other illnesses are treated the migraines will lessen, as with mine.

    Good luck.

  • You could always try taking an Iron supplement to see if it helps. Very cheap to buy from any pharmacy, so worth a try, and even if that's not your problem it won't do any harm.

  • Zigzag - thanks, yes that fits with the whole 'co-exsisting' conditions idea and is probably exactly what is happening. I clearly have a predisposition to headaches (as does my mother) and so the problem is understanding if its a secondary (treatable) problem causing them to become chronic, or just one of those things (neurologist view).

    O23mjc - thanks I started on ferrous fumarate a week ago at 3 tablets per day on direction of consultant but over last 2 days my head is even worse than usual! Wondering if i could be over doing it...

  • Hi. My migraines started when my hypothyroid symptoms started.

    I think your thyroid probably needs treating - if you have private healthcare you can request an endocrinologist appointment and get it treated that way as the GP will be unlikely to treat you at such a 'low' TSH! I had mine treated at a TSH of 5.6 and mine now needs to be suppressed (lower than the lower end of the range) for me to feel anything like normal. This is a crude test though - as Mary suggests look on Thyroid UK for much more info.

    As for the headaches, they may improve with some supplementary thyroxine - mine did. Also, I tried supplementing with a range of vitamins. I believe that we may be all reasonably deficient in some major ones. For iron, I found solgar gentle iron extremely effective after giving birth, raising my Hb from 7 to 12 in just 3 weeks (at high dose) with no adverse effects. I think B12 is very important to have, and I now take 1000mcg per day. I supplement all vitamins at recommended levels or above (except iodine - do not take this with an underactive thyroid). I also experimented with progesterone cream with quite a bit of success. However, I'd first treat the thyroid and make sure you take a good dose of all vitamins too and see if that helps at all.

  • Thanks ejh1 - really interesting to hear about your experience and glad you have it sorted now. I see private endo again in a week and a half and she will retest thyroid and iron. She wants my iron up first as it can make you react badly to the thyroxine? Did you have low iron at same time?

    Still on the iron and also taking high dose vit B (though vit B12 tested and ok), high dose magnesium, selenium and vit D. The increase in Hb is impressive - will look at the solgar ones in case. I had to drop from 3 down to 2 iron tablets (ferrous fumarate) as it felt like my head was worse! Have added a midday spatone in today (in addition to the 2 iron tablets) but its only been a week and a half. Did you notice any correlation between iron deficiency and headaches? Was hoping it would be the problem, but it doesn't really explain why my TSH is so borderline.

  • Can I ask also - were your FT4 and FT3 in range with your tsh of 5.6? Thanks :-)

  • Hi. Its a long time ago for me (6 years ago), but I was diagnosed as 'subclinical', so my T4 and T3 must have been within range (but probably low-normal). I never had any iron tests, so can't say if it was low or not. I had 2 big babies close together and lost loads of blood both times. I tried to take the ferrous fumarate but it had adverse GI effects - I'm sure you know what I mean, black and coal-like! My midwife suggested the solgar, and I was really sceptical, but it really worked for me. I take spatone regularly now to keep iron up.

    I can't say what made my headaches worse. I believe I suffer hormonal headaches, but at that time they were all over the place. I couldn't say what regulated them, but for me getting the thyroxine was generally a lifesaver. I didn't realise how bad I was until I got a bit better! The thyroid can affect everything.

    What was your B12? It should be high in the range. Lower than 500 is often considered inadequate. You cannot overdose on it, so supplementing is fine, but if you're taking a multi-B vit, and not low in the range, that is probably fine.

    Good luck with the endo! Hope she is not a dragon... too many of them are!

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