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Migraines Exposed: 3 Reasons Why Women Suffer the Most

By HERWriter
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Migraines Exposed: 3 Reasons Why Women Suffer Most Tyler Olson/Fotolia

Migraine sufferers know the pain well. Light and sound become intolerable. The non-stop pulsating headaches may be accompanied by nausea and for some, the need to vomit. These extremely intense headaches can last for hours or longer.

Both sexes get migraines but it is women that are most affected. Up to four times more than men, reported Time.com.

So why do women suffer the most when it comes to migraines? Researchers and scientists list three reasons.

Reason number one is hormones, namely estrogen.

HowStuffWorks.com wrote that, according to the American Headache Society Committee, boys and girls report the same rate of migraines. That is, until puberty. Once girls begin their periods, the number of their migraines increases dramatically.

Women often have hormonal migraines right before or during their periods, when estrogen levels drop. As many as 60 to 70 percent of female migraine sufferers report that their monthly cycle is tied in to the time when they get migraines, the Cleveland Clinic said.

One study published in Neurology seems to support that statistic. It found that migraines are more common for women two days before a menstrual cycle.

The small study consisted of 114 women who get migraines and 223 women who don’t. All the participants recorded their migraine history, kept daily headache diaries and collected daily hormone data from urine samples. They did this once a year during an entire menstrual cycle for a 10-year period.

The discovery? Women who get migraines tend to see their estrogen levels decline faster the days before their period.

A second reason could have something to do with women’s brains. A brain imaging study looked at the brains of both sexes. The brains of women with migraines appear to be designed differently than men.

The very small study consisted of 44 men and women participants, half of whom were migraine sufferers. Both the women and men with migraines rated them as intense, but the females had a tendency to label them as much more unpleasant.

Researchers scanned the participants’ brains via MRIs looking for differences between the brains of both sexes during a migraine.

Female migraine sufferers showed slightly thicker gray matter in two regions: the posterior insula, which is a pain processing area, and the precuneus, which has been recently linked to migraines, according to Science Magazine.

The other volunteers, including the male migraine sufferers, did not show this thickening.

A third possible reason that women suffer more migraines could be sensitivity to triggers like alcohol and caffeine. HowStuffWorks.com said that men and women can consume the same amount of either, but the end results are different.

Women — typically being smaller — do not metabolize these and other chemicals and foods like men. Women could therefore be more susceptible to getting migraines in higher numbers after consuming such triggers.

Reviewed June 30, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Cruzan Morton, Carol. "Why Do Women Get More Migraines?" Science. N.p., 2012. Web. 10 June 2016.

Neighmond, Patti. "Why Women Suffer More Migraines Than Men." NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 10 June 2016.

Sember, Brette. "Why Do Women Have More Migraines than Men?" HowStuffWorks. N.p., 2008. Web. 10 June 2016.

Sifferlin, Alexandra. "Here's Why Women Get Migraines More Than Men." Time. Time, n.d. Web. 10 June 2016.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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