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Why Women Have More Migraines Than Men

Three times as many women have migraine as do men. That translates to 18% to 25% of women worldwide. A new study shows that this discrepancy might be because women’s brains are faster to activate the cascading waves of activity thought to cause migraine pain and other migraine symptoms.

The strength of the stimulus required to trigger these waves of activity, called cortical spreading depression (CSD), was two to three times higher for men than for women. This excitability indicates that women’s propensity toward migraine is linked to more than just menstrual cycle.

I have the mental ability of a three-year-old today. See A Woman’s Brain Wired for More Migraines? from CBS/WebMD and Why Women Get More Migraines Than Men, a UCLA press release, for details.

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Looking for Men With Headache Disorders

As a woman with migraine and chronic daily headache, I tend to write about women with migraine or chronic daily headache. But there still are men with these and other headache disorders. (For example, although three times as many women as men have migraine, more men have cluster headaches.)

Reader Andy asked me for resources for men with headache disorders. I haven’t been able to find much. Andy was kind enough to share his experience:

“I woke up with a headache on January 22, 2005 and it’s been there ever since. I also determined through my own research that it is New Daily Persistent Headache – it has the symptoms of chronic daily headache without the traditional migraine elements. Most days it’s pretty mild, allowing me to live my life fairly normally as long as I’m distracted by my job, family, baseball game, etc. But it never goes away. It’s always there, and it’s really devastating to think I’ll be spending the next 50 years of my life in pain. 50 years! See how terrible that sounds? I just came across this blog for the first time and it’s somewhat comforting to know there are other people out there who can relate to that. Depressing, yet comforting.”

A surprising number of headache blogs are written by men. These are the ones I know of; please let me know of any others.

I know there are plenty of men reading this post. How do you cope with your headache disorder? What are your favorite sources for learning about men and headache?

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Tonight: Live Webcast on Women & Migraine

Why Do Women Get More Migraines Than Men? is the topic of tonight’s HealthTalk-hosted webcast. Headache specialists Christina Peterson and Dawn Marcus will discuss this sex disparity and treatments that are particularly helpful for women.

Listener questions will be answered, but you have to register in advance to submit a question (I have no idea how late they’ll will take questions). Registration is not required to listen to the program.

The broadcast starts at 7 p.m. EST (4 p.m. PST). Starting about 10 minutes before the webcast, go to the program’s description page and look for a link that says “Join the Program.”

Sorry for the late notice!

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News to Noodle

I’m tired of complaining, so here’s some news and information.

Children May Outgrow Migraines

A majority of adolescents with migraines either stop having headaches or develop less-severe ones as they reach adulthood, new research shows.

Of the 55 children studied, 40% had remission by their early 20s, while 20% shifted to less troubling tension-type headaches, according to the report, published in the Oct. 24 issue of Neurology.

Migraine Study Brings Men New Headaches

. . . [M]en who experience migraine attacks have a 24 percent increased risk of suffering from major cardiovascular problems and a 42 percent increased risk of suffering a heart attack.

Web Health Info Seekers Tend Not to Check Sources

Only one-fourth of Americans who search the Internet for health advice regularly check the source and date of the information they find to assess its quality. . . .

Just 15 percent of those surveyed said they always checked the source and date of the health information found online, while another 10 percent said they did so most of the time. Three-quarters of those surveyed said they checked the source and date sometimes, hardly ever or never, Pew said.

I’m appalled by these numbers. There’s too much bad information online to accept it at face value. I never use a source that I’m even slightly skeptical of.

[via Kevin, MD]

Oh, the pain of it all! Oh, the pain!

An ER doc’s take on distinguishing real pain patients from drug seekers:

I occasionally wish my job demanded something more than a valid DEA license, and decision-making skills beyond “yes narcs” and “no narcs.” It just drains the carpe right out of your diem to start the day off in a series of ugly little dogfights over drugs with people whom, to put it charitably, you have concerns about the validity of their reported pain.

Now please don’t jump to conclusions here. Pain sucks, and in the common event that I know to a reasonable certainty that someone is suffering, I am quite free with the narcotics. That’s a big part of my raison d’etre. The problem is that increasingly, it seems that the chronic pain complaints far outnumber the acute pain complaints, and treating chronic (or recurrent) pain in the ED is fraught with difficulty to say the least. You don’t know the patient, they come to the ED over and over for the same thing, they are demanding (both in terms of time expended and emotional energy), some are dishonest, there always seems to be some barrier to treatment which requires ED therapy (“Doctor out of town,” “Lost prescription,” “Only a shot works,” “Threw up my pills,” etc), and there is never objective evidence of physical disease.

[via Kevin, MD]

Sensitivity to Pain Explained

Stabbing back pain or the aches of arthritis send some people to bed in misery while the same distress seems easily tolerated by others. Why does pain hurt some people more than others? Scientists finally have an answer.

It involves a single molecule under control of a gene that acts like a dimmer switch. A “bright” or high setting excites sensory nerves to produce more of a chemical called BH4. For scientists, BH4 has one meaning, but for sufferers, it might as well mean “Big Hurt.” Lower settings block BH4, protecting people from the wrench and bite of chronic pain.

New Report Finds Pain Affects Millions of Americans

One in four U.S. adults say they suffered a day-long bout of pain in the past month, and one in 10 say the pain lasted a year or more, according to the government’s annual, comprehensive report of Americans’ health. . . .

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Women Feel More Pain

Have you heard that women have higher pain thresholds than men? A recent study suggests that the opposite is true: women feel pain more easily than men and that they focus more on the emotional aspects of pain, which makes it worse, than do men.

These findings fit right into the hysterical woman stereotype, but if they are supported by more research, the potential for more effective pain treatment and meds is huge.

Thanks to Kevin, M.D. for the tip off.