Migraine is a gender specific condition as it affects more women than men: Dr N K Venkataramana

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Migraine is a condition that affects many more women than men. Indeed, 7 out of every 10 migraine afflicted are women, clearly making it a gender specific condition, said Dr N K Venkataramana, Founder & Chief Neurosurgeon, Brains Hospitals, Bengaluru.

Just like the cluster headaches which are also common for women, migraine too falls under the category of vascular headaches. In addition, tension-related headaches also afflict women much more than men, he added.

On the occasion of the ‘International Women’s Day’ observed on March 8, Dr Venkataramana, said that headaches are always disruptive and often lead to behavioural changes. But what is not commonly known is that women are far more likely to suffer from headaches including migraine than men.

Though there are many kinds of headaches, not all of them are dangerous, nor do they indicate brain tumour. From 2.8:1 to a peak of 3.3:1 women are far more prone to migraine than men. Studies prove that through adolescence the incidence of migraine among the boys range from 2.9% to 4.1% while it goes all the way up to 9.8% per cent among girls. Hormonal changes and fluctuation in estrogen levels are primarily responsible for this gender bias, he noted.

Migraine is essentially a significant fluctuation in the blood flow to brain, which leads to secondary neurological disturbances affecting pain sensitive structures of the head and neck. Therefore there are common migraines, classical migraine complex migraine. Specifically complex migraines include: Hemianopic migraine, hemiplegic migraine, basilar migraine, abdominal migraine, epileptic migraine and secondary migraine.

Moreover migraine usually has strong family history. A common myth surrounding is that it is incurable and leads to a lifetime’s suffering. This is not necessarily true. But all these headaches need treatment, quite often symptomatically. Timely food intake, proper sleep, a reasonable amount of physical exercise and avoidance of the precipitating factors like bright light, loud noise, irregular eating habits, irregular sleep, excessive physical and mental stress and travel are critical.

Certain food contents that precipitate headache need to be avoided. Besides, stress, smoking and alcohol are not only known to precipitate headaches, but also reduce the efficacy of treatment, besides leading to other complications.

Hypertension is another aspect that has to be well controlled. Yoga and pranayama will be of tremendous help here. Also, all hormone related treatments need to be taken with precaution as it could lead to severe complications like Cerebral Venous Thrombosis (CVT).

Specialist consultations and investigations are mandatory. Any sudden onset of headache with neck pain, vomiting, loss of consciousness, weakness and fits needs to be treated as an emergency, stated Dr. Venkataramana.

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