Why Are Migraines More Common In Women?

08/14/2012 05:47 pm ET

Migraines -- those painful, throbbing headaches -- are known to be more common in women. But why?

A new study in the journal Brain shows it may have something to do with sex differences in brain structure.

Harvard Medical School researchers conducted their study in 44 men and women, some of whom suffered from migraines.

They found that women's brains had thicker gray matter in the posterior insula (key in processing pain) and the precuneus brain regions (which gives the feeling of a sense of self), ScienceNow reported. The researchers also observed that migraine intensity seemed to be equal for both men and women. But for women, the intensity was more unpleasant than it was for the men, according to ScienceNow.

Researchers also conducted an experiment where they subjected the study participants to heat, and found that the brains of women who have migraines responded differently to the pain than other people's brains, ScienceNow reported.

"The results support the notion of a 'sex phenotype' in migraine and indicate that brains are differentially affected by migraine in females compared with males," the researchers wrote in the study.

Recently, a small study from Norwegian researchers published in the journal Headache showed that migraines may affect more people than was previously believed.

In that study, 245 neurologists were surveyed about their migraines. Thirty-five percent reported having had a migraine at least once, while 26 percent said they've had one in the last year alone, Reuters reported.

However, the amount of migraines reported by the neurologists was significantly higher -- double, in fact -- than reported by the general Norwegian population, Reuters reported.

Plus, another recent study suggests that there may be certain genes that may predispose a person to have migraines. That research, published in the journal Nature Genetics, pinpointed four genes in particular, and confirmed another two genes, that seem responsible for susceptibility to migraine without aura.

Are you a migraine sufferer? There are things you can do -- check out these natural ways to ease your pain:

Natural Ways To Ease Migraines

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