One in every four women experience migraines. That’s triple the rate experienced by men. For decades, people were told these debilitating headaches were “all in their head.” The stereotype was that women’s migraines were the result of their inability to manage stress, even hysteria. Now scientists are investigating the true causes — and it turns out to be much more biologically based than conventionally thought.
Migraines are indeed all in your head — but not in the sense that they’re just psychosomatic or confabulated complaints. There’s a reason more women experience migraines than men. It turns out, it all comes down to hormones:
What triggers a migraine is nearly as complicated as the migraine itself. There are environmental changes like sounds, light, smells and movement. There are genes; migraine risk is hereditary.
But there is one major trigger, and this is why women have so many more migraines than men.
Neurologist Jan Lewis Brandes, founder of the Nashville Neuroscience Group, says migraines can be triggered by hormonal fluctuation. Migraines are slightly more common in boys than girls until girls begin menstruation. And once girls begin to menstruate, and hormones begin to fluctuate up and down, the number of their migraines increases dramatically.
The main culprit is estrogen, although researchers think other hormones may also be involved. But the uncertainty contributes to the difficulty of migraine treatment.