Do Women Suffer from Migraines more than Men?
Women have a lot on their shoulders because they have so many different responsibilities inside and outside of the home. So it’s no surprise that women experience headaches as much as three times as often as men do. However, when it comes to migraines, the Migraine Research Foundation has found that women experience migraines far more often compared to men. Up to 85% of migraine sufferers are women and their migraines tend to be more severe and longer-lasting.
What Are Migraines?
Migraines are a severe type of headache disorder that can cause crippling side effects. In addition to head pain, migraines can affect vision, cause sensory issues, and prevent people from being able to go about their daily lives. They can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
- Pain on one or both sides of the head
- Throbbing or pulsating pain
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and smells
- Visual disturbances
- Mood swings
- Migraine with Aura: The most common type of migraine that has visual disturbances, or auras, in addition to head pain. Auras usually start before the head pain and can appear as blind spots, flashes of light, floaters, shimmering spots or stars. Migraine auras can also cause vision loss, blurred vision, and tingling in the limbs.
- Migraine without Aura: This is a type of migraine where people experience the typical symptoms of a migraine but without any visual disturbances.
- Migraine without Pain: Also called a silent migraine, migraines without pain are those that have all the symptoms of a migraine like an aura and nausea but without any head pain.
Why Do Women Get More Migraines?
Once females start to go through puberty, they become more likely to get migraines. This is because of the increased production of the female sex hormone, oestrogen. Oestrogen is the hormone responsible for regulating the female reproductive system as well as the chemicals in the brain that provide natural pain relief.
It’s normal for women’s hormone levels to change throughout their lives, but drops in oestrogen levels makes migraines more likely. Oestrogen levels can fluctuate because of periods, pregnancy, post-partum hormone changes, menopause, and the use of hormonal birth control pills. Sometimes hormones shift because of stress or seemingly due to no obvious cause at all.
Everyone has different migraine triggers so it’s important to determine what yours are so you can prevent migraines and treat them effectively. A major trigger of migraines is stress and while it’s often easier said than done, you should try to reduce stress wherever possible. Migraines are stressful events in themselves so to keep yourself from getting into a painful loop of stress and migraines, carve out time each day to reduce stress in a way that works for you.Other triggers include:
- Not getting enough sleep
- Poor posture
- Excessive physical exertion
- Bright lights
- Low blood sugar
- Strong smells
In addition to avoiding migraine triggers, you can take medications called triptans at the first sign of a migraine. It’s thought that when a person has a migraine, the blood vessels in the brain expand and this is what causes the debilitating symptoms of a migraine. Triptans provide relief from migraines by narrowing the blood vessels in the brain and by relaxing the brain’s nerves..