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Why do women have more migraines than men?
Migraine pain is no picnic.
Migraine pain is no picnic.
Ryoko Uyama/Getty Images

­Migraines are pretty much the worst headache imaginable. Some people vomit from the pain, which can last for days. Many migraine sufferers can't even be near light and have to hide out in a dark room with a stock of painkillers. And, unfairly, women seem to get them more often than men do.

Hormones are the most obvious culprit. A woman's estrogen levels fluctuate throughout her menstrual cycle, and this hormone may be related to migraines. Contraceptives and other hormonal therapies help some female patients and worsen symptoms for others, so there's no single way to treat these debilitating headaches.

It also turns out that women's brains may handle pain differently from the way men's do. Migraineurs who see auras, a visual side effect of the headache, may be sensitive to something called cortical spreading depression (CSD), the product of an excitable brain. Waves move across the brain, causing inflammation. Blood flow increases and then decreases, resulting in pain. According to current research, women are more sensitive to CSD.

Find out more in Why do women have more migraines than men?


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