Before we go ahead explaining the reasons why women get more migraines, one needs to understand what migraine actually is.  A migraine is a powerful headache that often happens with nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, sound or smell. They can last from 4 hours to 3 days, and sometimes longer.


Estrogen is the main female sex hormone but it is present in every sex (both male and female). Females tend to have higher levels of estrogen while males have more testosterone, which is the main male sex hormone. In females, estrogen plays a role in the menstrual cycle and reproductive system while in males, it is important for sexual function. Males and females can develop high levels of estrogen, which can affect overall health and sexual development and function.


Estrogen and other sex hormones may be responsible for the higher prevalence of migraine in women. Recent research reveals a potential mechanism for migraine causation which could explain why women get more migraines than men. The study however, suggests that sex hormones affect cells around the trigeminal nerve and connected blood vessels in the head, with estrogens (at their highest levels in women of reproductive age) being particularly important for sensitizing these cells to migraine triggers. The finding also provides scientists with a promising new route to personalized treatments for migraine patients.

The team reviewed decades of literature on sex hormones, migraine sensitivity and cells’ responses to migraine triggers to identify the role of specific hormones. Some like testosterone seem to protect against migraines, while others like prolactin appear to make migraines worse. They do this by making the cells’ ion channels, which control the cells’ reactions to outside stimuli, more or less vulnerable to migraine triggers.

Though, some hormones need much more research to determine their role. However, estrogen stands out as a key candidate for understanding migraine occurrence. It was first identified as a factor by the greater prevalence of migraine in menstruating women and the association of some types of migraine with period-related changes in hormone levels. The research team’s evidence now suggests that estrogen and changes in estrogen levels sensitize cells around the trigeminal nerve to stimuli. That makes it easier to trigger a migraine attack.


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