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Why do women have more migraines than men?

Migraine Pain Sensitivity
Men and women react differently to pain -- it's biological.
Men and women react differently to pain -- it's biological.
Ryoko Uyama/Getty Images

Women may be more susceptible or sensitive to migraine triggers than men. Dr. Kevin Sperber, assistant professor of Clinical Rehabilitation Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, says. "I don't know of any research specifically comparing the sensitivity of men and women with migraines to specific triggers; however, for dietary and pharmacologic triggers (such as caffeine or alcohol), the same dose will affect men and women differently." For one thing, women tend to be smaller than men, so the same amount of alcohol is likely to affect a woman more than a man. Women also metabolize alcohol, caffeine and other foods and chemicals differently, which may further explain their increased sensitivity.

To date, there are no studies that show that men and women cope with migraines differently. However, Dr. Desiree Thomas, a neurologist at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic in Houston, Texas, says that there is research which shows "differences in how the brains of men and women process pain information." So while a woman might be in bed with the shades drawn coping with a migraine, a man might not be as dramatically affected by the same symptoms simply because his brain handles the pain signals differently. It's not true that men are just tougher. Instead, women and men's brains are wired differently when it comes to processing and reacting to pain.

Family history is another important factor in migraine activity. If you have relatives with migraines, then you're more likely to have them, too. The closer the relative is to you and the more relatives you have with migraines, the more likely you will be susceptible to them as well. There's a definite genetic link when it comes to migraines, which further supports the idea that there's more to it than just women being weaker than men or women responding to triggers differently.

So is there a physical difference in a woman's body that makes them more susceptible to migraines? Keep reading to find out how hormones and brain activity affect women.