Are migraines worse for women?

Of the more than 39 million Americans who suffer from migraines, 28 million are women. Do women have a greater risk of getting migraines and if so, why?

“Migraines are severe headaches that are often triggered by lack of sleep, dehydration, alcohol, and stress – but every person’s trigger can differ,” said Dr. Doris Kung, a neurologist with Baylor College of Medicine. They are associated with nausea, vomiting, or light and sound sensitivity. A tension-type headache will not have these symptoms.”

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Risks for women

Women are three times more likely to suffer from migraines than men, and migraines tend to start around childbearing ages.

“Women may also notice that migraines occur around the time of their menstrual cycles. This leads to women having more frequent migraines than men.”

Kung adds that estrogen does play a role in causing migraines. However, not all migraines can be hormonally controlled. There are some specific cautions with patients who suffer from migraines with aura symptoms and use of birth control pills.

“It’s important to speak with your primary care physician or neurologist about the use of estrogen-containing birth control if you suffer from this type of migraine.”

Finding relief
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Dr. Doris Kung

When migraines are not relieved with over-the-counter medicine, Kung says it may be time to see a physician.

“If you have frequent migraines, see your doctor and ask for a neurologist referral if your migraines are not well controlled,” she said. “Patients often have migraines for many years. They are very intense headaches that make one want to lie down in a dark and quiet room.”

Kung suggests keeping a ‘migraine diary’ to track what triggers your migraines. “Even three to four days of migraines per month can be disabling and require treatment,” she said.

While there is no known cure for migraines, Kung says there are treatments that can prevent headaches, including many oral, injectable, and even non-pharmaceutical options.

She offers tips for migraine relief:

  • Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night
  • Stay hydrated
  • Exercise regularly

Dr. Kung is an assistant professor in the Department of Neurology at Baylor. To learn more about the Baylor Neurology Clinic, visit the website or call 713-798-227.

-By Alexandria Bland, communications coordinator for the Departments of Neurology and Neurosurgery at Baylor

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