According to a recent study, women bear a significant amount of the migraine burden due to the higher prevalence of estrogen and other sex hormones. To decrease the substantial health and economic burden of a migraine on individuals and society, researchers at the Society for Women’s Health Research addressed how the disease differs between women and men. Migraine is three times more common in women than men, reaching peak prevalence between ages 30-39, at a time when many women are balancing work, family, and social obligations. Women are more likely to experience longer and more intense migraine attacks and report more migraine-associated symptoms and comorbid conditions.
For example, sex hormones like estrogen play a large role in the development of migraine and are likely contributors to observed sex differences in the disease.
In addition, women and men seek and receive treatment for migraine differently, with women more likely to consult a health care provider. This could be because women typically experience worse symptoms or because the feminization of the migraine makes men hesitant to seek help. Recognizing these gender differences can help overcome patient and provider bias in the diagnosis and treatment of migraine.
Despite the clear differences in migraine between women and men, research exploring these differences has been limited.
Innovation in migraine has been slow. Until earlier this year, no treatments designed specifically to prevent migraine had come onto the market in more than 50 years. To promote advancement in migraine research and patient care, the research identified gaps in knowledge and prioritizes areas that warrant further attention in order to improve health outcomes for both women and men. Priority areas include:
-Increasing awareness of migraine to better identify and treat the disease
-Enhancing quality-of-life measures by improving the assessment of disability and understanding of migraine’s impact on workplace productivity
-Destigmatizing migraine to increase rates of those seeking and continuing care
-Expanding current animal models, including increasing use of female animals, to learn more about sex differences at the basic research level
The findings appeared in the Journal of Women’s Health.