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Migraine: the differences between men and women

Both men and women can suffer from migraine. Even so, there are significant differences: women are two to three times more likely to suffer from migraine. Furthermore, the women suffer more and the migraine lasts longer. But how do men experience migraine?

It is known that migraine is less common in men (10.3%) than in women (23.1%). Using data from the Migraine Buddy App –which participants used to keep track of their migraine symptoms everyday – the differences between men and women were examined in further detail.

The study confirmed that men suffer less from migraine and the migraine does not last as long. They experience less pain and generally an attack lasts for approximately an hour less than in women. Men also have on average 6 attacks a month instead of 7.

The data reveals that men who suffer from migraine are depressed more often and they are more sensitive to light. To the contrary, women are more sensitive to unpleasant odours and are more likely to suffer from nausea. Men are less likely to take medication for migraine (53%) than women (60%) and talk less about their symptoms.

It was found that sudden weather changes is an important trigger in both men and women. Changes in humidity, temperature and air pressure were found to cause migraine in both groups. Women are more likely to blame weather changes as the cause than men, who in turn mainly consider physical exercise to be the instigator.

A study using an MRI scanner in 2012 revealed that various areas of the brain are involved in men and women who suffer from migraine. In women, a larger overlap was found between pain networks and the emotional brain centres, which, as it were, intensifies the pain that is experienced.

This is not the case in men, which may explain why they experience less pain and talk less about it. To the contrary, men display changed activity in the brain’s reward system. This may explain the greater susceptibility to depression during a migraine attack, but the researchers are not yet sure about this.

For both women and men, 80 mg of vitamin B6 along with 600 mg of magnesium can help to reduce the seriousness, duration and frequency of migraines.

Sources

  1.       http://nationaalkompas.nl/gezondheid-en-ziekte/ziekten-en-aandoeningen/zenuwstelsel-en-zintuigen/migraine/trend/
  2.       http://www.migrainetrust.org/factsheet-men-and-migraine-10916
  3.       Nasim Maleki, Clas Linnman, Jennifer Brawn, Rami Burstein, Lino Becerra, David Borsook, Her versus his migraine: multiple sex differences in brain function and structure, Brain 28 July 2012, pp. 2546-2559.
  4.       Sadeghi O, Nasiri M, Maghsoudi Z, Pahlavani N, Rezaie M, Askari G, Effects of pyridoxine supplementation on severity, frequency and duration of migraine attacks in migrainepatients with aura: A double-blind randomized clinical trial study in Iran, Iran J Neurol. 2015 Apr 4;14(2):74-80.
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