Migraines – Research shows women are far more prone to them than men

Let’s begin with the obvious, what is a migraine and how is it different from a headache? 

A migraine goes beyond being a simple headache; it’s a debilitating neurological condition with distinct symptoms that set it apart from other types of headaches. It’s marked by intense to severe headaches and accompanied by nausea. Migraines feel like a really strong pounding pain, usually on one side of the head. They may also cause sensitivity to bright lights or loud sounds. 

Studies have shown that migraine affects over 4.9 million Australians but due to numerous cases going undiagnosed or untreated, the real figure is likely even more substantial. Migraines are said to be more common in women than men. Let us explain why!

Migraines in women – It’s all in your head

In the past, these headaches were linked to women struggling to handle stress, almost seen as a form of hysteria. However, modern researchers are uncovering the true underlying factors.

Nowadays, experts understand that migraines are genuinely connected to your brain. It’s all in your head, but not in an outdated way. Migraines have a biological foundation, showing up as a surge of electrical signals moving through the brain.

One in four women has had a migraine. Among women between 18 and 49 years old, migraines are the primary reason for disability on a global scale.

That’s not all. Studies indicate that women experience migraines more often, in a more severe and persistent manner compared to men. Women are also more inclined to seek medical attention and use prescription medications to manage their migraines. Additionally, women who suffer from migraines often face a higher occurrence of mental health challenges, such as anxiety and depression.

Why is it so much worse for women?

Migraines and hormones

Estrogen and progesterone influence a range of biological processes. They impact various brain chemicals and could be linked to variations in the function and structure of specific brain areas connected with the onset of migraines. As girls enter puberty, their chances of experiencing migraines grow. This can be attributed to the changing levels of sex hormones, particularly estrogen, which is closely tied to puberty.

Some girls might have their first migraine when they start having periods. But the worst migraines usually happen during the childbearing years. Experts think that about fifty to sixty percent of women with migraines get special migraines linked to their periods i.e. menstrual migraines. These migraines often show up a few days before or during periods when the levels of estrogen drop, and they can be more painful and last longer compared to other times.

Migraines and pregnancy/menopause 

During pregnancy, migraines can be especially incapacitating in the initial three months. This could stem from the decline in hormone levels, coupled with lack of sleep, stress, dehydration, and other environmental factors linked to pregnancy and postpartum life.

Migraine occurrences can also rise during perimenopause, which is when a woman transitions towards menopause. Once again, shifting hormone levels, especially estrogen, can be responsible for these headaches, along with the continuous pain, feelings of sadness, and sleep issues that often accompany this phase.

In conclusion

Much can be done about managing migraines. Treatment is not just a matter of taking a tablet but a case of each individual developing a migraine management plan that will likely involve lifestyle modifications, medication, and even complementary therapies.

Women who present with symptoms of migraine at the pharmacy are usually recommended symptom management over the management medications such as anti-inflammatories, paracetamol, or anti-nausea medication. 

General practitioners can prescribe prescription medication in cases where OTC alternatives aren’t enough. These medications can either be used as a preventative solution or taken at the first sign of a migraine. 

Medical researchers still have more to learn about why women and men get migraines (women more so). Bridging the gender gap in migraine research not only empowers women but also advances understanding of the condition as a whole and creates a future where migraines are better managed.

Opinions or facts expressed within the content have been sourced from various news sources. While every effort has been taken to source them accurately, the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates do not take any responsibility for errors in these sources. Patients should not rely on the facts or opinions in the content to manage their own health, and should seek the advice of an appropriate medical professional. Further, the opinions or facts in the content do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the pharmacy, its owners, staff or other affiliates. 

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