Anyone who has ever had a migraine knows just how painful they can be. Not only do they ruin your entire day but sometimes, they’re so unbearable that all you can do is crawl into a dark room and stay there until they fade away, and you feel like to your normal self again.
Whether you’re a regular sufferer or not, one thing you might have noticed is that more women than men tend to get migraines – but have you ever stopped to wonder why?
A study conducted back in 2012 was among the first to highlight the discrepancy between male and female migraine sufferers. The scientists involved found that one in four women had a migraine at some point in their life, and that the crippling condition affects three times more women than men. Now, new research into the subject has expanded upon this, and identified why women are more likely to experience these episodes.
The team’s findings, reported in the journal Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences, showed that women suffer with more migraines due to oestrogen levels and other sex hormones. After carrying out lab trials and animal studies, they discovered that that these hormones affect the cells around the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for pain perception. Meanwhile, other hormones such as testosterone were shown to protect against migraines.
The chances of developing a migrane are higher for women of a reproductive age as their oestrogen levels are at their highest, and this may sensitise these cells to triggers. This is also why you may be more likely to suffer with migraines during your menstrual cycle.
‘We can observe significant differences in our experimental migraine model between males and females and are trying to understand the molecular correlates responsible for these differences,’ said study corresponding author Professor Antonio Ferrer-Montiel, of the Universitas Miguel Herná¡ndez in Spain.
‘Although this is a complex process, we believe that modulation of the trigeminovascular system by sex hormones plays an important role that has not been properly addressed.’
Professor Ferrer-Montiel stressed that the role of oestrogen and other hormones in migraines does need more investigation, but added that future studies should focus on the relationship between menstrual hormones and migraines in the hopes of developing more effective treatments.
‘If successful, we will contribute to better personalised medicine for migraine therapy,’ he concluded.