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Why women are thrice more at risk of migraines than men

IANS Mar 04, 2024

Changes in hormones may explain why migraines are three times more common among women than men, said experts on March 3.

A migraine is a severe headache that starts usually on one side but can be bilateral, and associated with a pulsating or throbbing quality. It is accompanied by nausea or vomiting, and is also associated with the irritability to sound and noise and it worsens by doing routine activity.

It can be accompanied by difficulty in concentration and it is a usually long-lasting headache - for more than four hours and can last up to 72 hours.

"Migraine is a very common headache and affects about 15 per cent of the population. People with migraine have a significant family history of migraine which are accompanied by worsening during menstrual periods. The ratio of females to males is three times to one," said Dr Praveen Gupta, Principal Director, Department of Neurology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute.

"This is because of the cyclical change in the hormones of the body. Female sex hormones known as oestrogen is the main culprit for causing migraines," said Dr Sumit Singh, Director - Neurology at Artemis Hospitals.

He told IANS that the "risk of migraine is much higher in women who consume hormonal pills or use hormonal contraceptives."

As per the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019, worldwide migraine is the leading cause of disability among women aged 18-49.

Studies also show migraines are more frequent, disabling and long-lasting in women than in men. The fairer sex is also more likely than men to have anxiety and depression related to migraines and seek medical care and prescription drugs than men.

"Migraine is a very common headache and is more common in females than males. Diagnosis of migraine is always clinical, and it requires a consultation with a good physician or neurologist which can be diagnosed easily, sometimes imaging scans like MRI is required," Said Prof Vinay Goyal, Chairman of Neurology from Medanta The Medicity, Gurugram.

There are multiple new techniques available for the treatment of migraine. But it is "imperative to identify precipitating symptoms, for example, hunger, sunlight, exposure, sleep deprivation, stress. These are some of the symptoms which can come prior to the migraine."

It has to be theorised so as to diagnose migraine early and treat it adequately, the doctor said.

Dr J.B. Agadi, Senior Consultant Neurology, Apollo Hospital, Bangalore also pointed out the growing need for non-pharmacological options for treating migraines. "Emerging technologies like Remote Electrical Neuromodulation (REN) offer promising options for migraine sufferers. REN utilises low-level electrical stimulation to activate pain-relieving pathways in the brain, providing a clinically proven, drug-free option for migraine management," the doctor said.

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