Why women are more vulnerable to migraine than men

Deccan Chronicle.  | Arpita Halder

Lifestyle, Health and Wellbeing

According to research women are three times more likely to get migraines than men.

Never take more than 4 painkillers in a month and if that is the case then a more appropriate anti migraine therapy is recommended. (Photo: Representational/Pixabay)

Headache is one of the most common medical problems that humans face. At least 50 per cent of the population suffers from a headache at least once in their lifetime. Headache becomes a problem when it gets recurrent, and then it should be evaluated. One should understand headaches could be of two types- first, the primary headache that is disabling but not worrisome or dangerous. Then is the secondary headache, which could be due to a tumour, brain infection, low or high blood sugar and there is a long list of that.

There are certain signs and symptoms of secondary headaches that people can recognise and immediately consult a neurologist. Some common symptoms are a sudden severe headache, a headache that wakes you up in the sleep or if a headache is associated with vomiting. Dr Namita Kaul, Consultant Neurology, Vimhans Nayati Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi shares why women are more vulnerable to migraine than men.

Migraine, tension-type headache or cluster headache comes under Primary Headache. These primary headaches are associated with disturbance in the pain system of the brain that leads to a triggering of the pain circuit.

According to the search, women are three times more likely to get migraines than men. Women experience migraines that are longer and more painful whereas male users seemed to average at six migraines a month. 18 per cent of women suffers compared to 6 per cent of men. However, during the reproductive years around 37 per cent of women suffer.  Of those who suffer, 50 per cent have more than 1 attack each month, and 25 per cent have 4 or more severe attacks per month. 85 per cent of chronic migraine sufferers is women. 92 per cent of women with severe migraine is disabled.

Hormones have an impact on migraine in women. Many women find their migraine symptoms are associated with menstruation, hormonal contraception, pregnancy and menopause. Menstrual migraine is an attack that occurs up to two days before and up to three days after your period begins. In comparison to other types of migraine, this is a little more difficult to treat. 7-19 per cent of women gets a menstrual migraine. Hormonal fluctuations, and especially oestrogen withdrawal, are thought to trigger the attack.

Hormonal contraception, like birth control pills, can have impact on migraine, varying from woman to woman. These oral contraceptives can trigger a woman’s first migraine attack. They should be consumed after weighing the risks and benefits of a particular contraceptive with their doctor, especially if there is a family history of migraine.

Pregnancy and migraine have an erratic relationship. 60 per cent of pregnant sufferers find their migraine improve significantly in their first trimester, and more than 75 per cent find they improve or even disappear during the rest of their pregnancy. Unfortunately, this is not the case for everyone. 15 per cent report their migraines to worsen during the first trimester, and about 25 per cent notice no change. It is advisable that people who have migraine problem should discuss their pregnancy plans with their doctors. Some migraine medications may impact the ability to conceive and may harm the foetus.

Migraines often worsen during pre-menopause, the years before menopause, with intense hormonal fluctuations. It has been observed that women who go through natural menopause often find their migraine symptoms improve dramatically, while women who experience surgical menopause often suffer more. The effect of oestrogen replacement therapy on migraine varies.

Considering the above factors, women should take care of their health, their lifestyle to control headaches. If headaches are frequent, troublesome then it is a cause of worry and they should be medically consulted. Never take more than 4 painkillers in a month and if that is the case then a more appropriate anti migraine therapy is recommended.