Why Women Get More Migraines
Scientists and health experts alike will be the first to tell you women get more migraines than men, but the “why” has been a mystery – until now. In the past, it was believed one of the main causes of migraines in women was sex hormones such as estrogen. A new study confirmed these beliefs, proving that estrogen and other similar hormones can cause migraines by modifying the trigeminovascular system, the network of neurons is one of the leading causes of migraines.
It is estimated that 18% of all women – about three times more than men – suffer from migraines, which is a pretty substantial number. Thanks to a new brain imaging study, we are finally starting to understand why this is the case.
Study Shows Women Experience Worse Migraines Than Men
Men are from Venus and women are from Mars, right? Well, something like that. The brain imaging study mentioned earlier was able to show that women who get migraines have very different brains than their male migraine-sufferer counterparts. This study was headed by Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School neurologist and neurobiologist David Borsook, who started by finding 44 men and women, half of whom suffer from migraines.
Over time, Borsook and his team of researchers observed the individuals, took varying images of their brains, and analyzed all the findings. In the end, they discovered there is a network of neurons and different parts of the brain that lead to more intense migraines in women than men.
Female Sex Hormones Trigger Migraines
Borsook and other researchers in various parts of the world have found the female sex hormone estrogen is the key culprit in triggering migraines. Estrogen actually makes the important nerves in the head and blood vessels much more sensitive to common migraine triggers, which is why women are more susceptible than men. Furthermore, menstruating women have more migraines than men.
While we knew hormones played an instrumental role in the onset of migraines, this network and system is much more complex than previously thought. Studies like those mentioned above have shed light as to why women experience more migraines than men, but further work will need to be done in order for us to truly understand the impact of hormones in migraineurs.
Testosterone Protects Men from Migraines
Unlike estrogen, testosterone – the male sex hormone – actually serves as a guard, protecting men from migraines. In this study, it was discovered that testosterone shields the brain from migraines by changing the way the cells react to stimuli. Because of this, men are much less vulnerable to some of the most common migraine triggers.
This information is enlightening, to say the least, but it does not change the fact that everyone is unique and may experience migraines in different ways. It is important to pay attention to your body and make note of any symptoms or triggers that may bring on a migraine. While there are some things we cannot change – such as our sex hormones and genetic predisposition to psychiatric disorders – there are certain ways to protect yourself. Learning what the tell-tale signs of an oncoming attack are and how to treat your migraines are things you can control, unlike what sex hormones you have.