Migraines: Women at Greater Risk
According to the World Health Organization, migraine is one of the most debilitating diseases, affecting approximately 1 billion people worldwide. In Italy alone, the disorder affects six million citizens, with a clear predilection for young adults and women. Migraine is one of the most common causes of temporary disability among women aged 15 to 49.
Neurologist Gennaro Bussone, founder of the Headache Center at the Besta hospital in Milan, noted that women are three times more likely to suffer from migraines than men. He attributes this to the high levels of stress and pressure from family and work commitments, which lead to a fast-paced lifestyle. This often causes women to push themselves beyond their limits, resulting in debilitating headaches as a warning sign from the brain.
Estrogen also plays a significant role in the development of migraines. Fluctuations in estrogen levels, particularly immediately before or during menstruation, can trigger intense pain for women who are sensitive to hormonal changes. These fluctuations may also be the reason why women experience headaches during pregnancy or menopause.
In addition to migraines, women are also more likely to suffer from tension headaches, which are characterized by widespread, mild to medium intensity pain. While it is not yet clear why tension headaches are more common in women, stress and anxiety may play a role.
To address these issues, Bussone recommends experimenting with relaxation techniques and physical activities such as mindfulness, pilates, and moderate exercise to prevent and alleviate migraines and tension headaches.
For those experiencing more than 5-6 headache episodes per month, specific therapy is necessary. There are new drugs for prevention therapy that have been proven to be more effective than traditional therapies, reducing the frequency and severity of attacks. Some of these treatments have been found to halve the monthly migraine days in 70% of patients, drastically improving their quality of life.
While there are expensive drugs available for migraine treatment, Bussone suggests that seeking treatment from specialized Headache Centers is crucial for those who have failed previous treatments or suffer from chronic migraines. Botulinum toxin has also been shown to be effective in the prevention of chronic migraine, with new drugs arriving for migraine attacks such as ditans and “gepants.”
As research and advancements in treatment continue to progress, there is hope for providing better solutions to those suffering from migraines and tension headaches, particularly for women who are disproportionately affected by these conditions.