News & Research

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.

2 thoughts on “Why Women Have More Migraines Than Men”

  1. The flip side of this is that its that much harder to get help when you are a man with migraines. I am a 24 year old guy, in good health otherwise, but I started having occasional severe migraines with long lasting auras about a year and a half ago. A lot of days my vision is like I just took ‘shrooms, and I’m not even talking about when it goes into full-blown auras. At work one time I had a full blown cant see anything aura for like two hours. It definitely messes with me cognitively too, like trying to act normal when your visual world is going crazy. Anyway, it was tough getting help. Doctors don’t know what to think when you’re a young man in good health, and all the blood tests look good etc. I think it was brought on by job stress at my old job. Long story short, I tried Neurontin, it didn’t help, I’m on Topamax now, its helping, but makes me kind of slow. When I try to tell people whats been happening, it doesn’t really compute. My friends who I have told, have made me feel kind of like a wuss, like its not a big deal, even though they don’t mean to. I guess, until its you driving around, and suddenly can’t see, it doesn’t hit home. When you are a ‘healthy’ guy with migraines, you are on an island.

    Thanks for sharing your story. Sadly, it’s something I hear from a lot of men —

    I know how few people really understand what’s going on with a woman’s migraine. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for men.

    Take care of yourself. I wish you the best of luck.


  2. That’s absolutely fascinating. There’s been a lot of research done on male vs. female brains lately – for example, women generally use both their right and left hemispheres to process language, and men generally use mostly their left. Some researchers think that this explains why women are generally better at communicating emotions.

    I wonder if the CSD is related to why inderal works to prevent migraine in some people? I was told that all beta-blockers make your adrenalin receptors less sensitive, and inderal is particularly good at calming the ones in the nervous system, including the brain. Very interesting.

    Good question about Inderal and CSD. I have no idea what the answer is!

    You may be interested in this article on models of migraine:

    Take care,

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