Did you know that 3 out of 4 migraine-sufferers in the United States are women? Even more unfortunate, female migraine sufferers have reported greater pain and intensity over more extended periods.
Migraines, also known as “brain attacks,” are a severe neurological disorder that can have a great negative consequence if left untreated. Over time, these symptoms are all a part of a larger picture in which data shows women are at a higher risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Chemicals, Genetics, and Hormones
The biological makeup of women accounts for the many hormonal shifts and adaptations associated with different life events. This female biology includes everything from hormones to PMS symptoms, pregnancy, and menopause. Through the study of pathogenesis, differences in blood chemicals like CGRP have been shown to play a factor in the brain-stem dysfunction that occurs in migraine suffers. Furthermore, this also contributes to the intensity and longevity of migraine symptoms in women.
We now know that migraines are not merely inconvenient, they are much more severe than previously misconceived.
What Can Be Done?
1. Identify Your Triggers & Eliminate
For women, this can be one or many of the following – elimination of certain foods containing high sugar and caffeine, making adjustments to inadequate water intake, decreasing severe stress levels, and medically managing menstrual cycles and sleep disruption.
Diet, exercise, and proper sleep hygiene go hand in hand with managing your migraine symptoms. Only a medical professional will be able to assist you in further identifying what treatments will work best.
I recommend keeping a journal of your symptoms and bringing that to your medical visit. You can identify the time, intensity, and any other details about the event. Feel free to use this Headache Journal Sheet available for download here.
2. Reject the Stigma & Seek Help
I have seen many women time and time again in my practice who suffer migraine attacks for years without seeking proper treatment. For many, the stigma associated with weakness and pain is enough to prevent someone from seeing a doctor.
Seeking help will enable a medical physician to take a look at your unique symptoms and outline a plan for you. Treatment will look different for every individual, taking into account lifestyle, genetic factors, current medications, and age.
If you have headaches or symptoms that are affecting your daily life, it may be a good idea to consult a neurologist. A neurologist can run diagnostic tests, including CT Scan, MRI, EEG, Eye Exams, Spinal Taps, and more, to help identify what is causing your headaches and find the appropriate treatment.
3. Educate Yourself & Spread the Word
Migraines affect everything from personal well-being, self-esteem, professional and personal relationships, and mental health.
The more knowledge you have on why you suffer from migraines, the more confident you will feel in addressing your symptoms with your physician, as well as helping those in your circle who may be suffering as well.
Conquering your migraines will take consistent dedication and lifestyle changes. I always recommend to my patients, stay patient, and on the course. The treatment is like a race, but it is not a sprint; it is a marathon.
With an increase in awareness, more and more women can take back control of their health, address their symptoms with professionals, and say goodbye to missed milestones and life events, and finally say hello to all of life’s meaningful activities.
Feel free to share this with the women in your life who may benefit from this information!
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If you have any questions about women's health or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact the Neurology Office for more help.
Neurology Office, Joseph Kandel M.D. and Associates
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