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Cluster headaches found to be more severe in women than in men

‘It’s possible this could contribute to the higher rate of chronic cluster headache in women’

Vishwam Sankaran
Thursday 22 December 2022 08:29 GMT
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Cluster headaches or bouts of painful attacks often on one side of the head, typically around the eyes, could be more severe for women than for men, suggests a new study.

The research, published on Wednesday in the journal Neurology, found that while these headaches – that tend to last anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours – may be more common in men but are, however, more severe in women.

In the study, scientists, including those from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston in the US, assessed data from over 850 people diagnosed with the condition.

The participants – 66 per cent male and 34 per cent female – answered a detailed questionnaire about their symptoms, medications, headache triggers and lifestyle habits.

Results suggested women were more likely to be diagnosed with chronic cluster headaches than men.

The chronic cluster headaches last for one year or more without interruption, or with short intermissions with no symptoms that last less than three months.

About 18 per cent of women in the study were diagnosed with chronic cluster headaches compared to 9 per cent of men.

The headache attacks also lasted longer for women than men, researchers found.

About 8 per cent of women reported in the survey that their headache bouts lasted an average of 4-7 months, compared to 5 per cent of men, while 26 per cent of women said bouts on average lasted less than a month, compared to 30 per cent of men.

Researchers said women were also more likely to report that their attacks occurred at various times throughout the day than men: 74 per cent compared to 63 per cent respectively.

The analysis suggests women may be more likely to have a family member with a history of cluster headache (15 per cent to 7 per cent).

Scientists, however, also pointed out that the study has its limitations as participants may not have remembered everything correctly.

“While the ratio of men to women with cluster headache has been shifting over the years, it is still considered mainly a disorder of men, making it more difficult for women with milder symptoms to be diagnosed with cluster headache than men,” said study co-author Andrea C Belin from Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden.

“It’s possible this could contribute to the higher rate of chronic cluster headache in women,” Dr Belin added.

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