Migraines tend to affect women more than men thanks to hormonal fluctuations, but an estimated nine percent of men also suffer from the debilitating head pain, with stress thought to be the primary cause.
Men are also less likely to turn to seek medical assistance for migraines, but without an accurate diagnosis, male migraine sufferers can put themselves at risk of heart problems, dental infections and strokes. Misdiagnosis could also increase the risk of being prescribed unnecessary medications for tension headaches or depression.
If you experience a throbbing, intense headache in one half of your head, GP Dr Clare Morrison looks at migraine triggers, causes and treatment tips:
1.Migraine intensity is lower for men than women
Apparently, women have a lower pain threshold than men, so the intensity of the pain on a scale of one to 10 is lower for men at five, while women have an average intensity of six.
Some experts believe that oestrogen could be the reason for higher pain levels in women, especially during menstrual periods. Migraines in men also occur less often than in women, with an average of six headaches per month for men, while women have seven a month to deal with.
2. Male migraine sufferers are at risk of heart attack
Middle-aged male migraine patients have a 42 percent higher risk of having a heart attack than non-migraine patients, as well as an increased risk of aneurysms – a bulge in a blood vessel caused by a weakness in the blood vessel wall.
These can develop in any blood vessel in the body, but the two most common places are the artery that transports blood away from the heart to the rest of the body, and the brain. Men who suffer from migraines are also more likely to develop diabetes and high blood pressure.
3. Exercise and sex can trigger a migraine
Men typically develop migraines from physical exertion during exercise or sexual activity. Symptoms of a pre-orgasmic headache are tightness and aching of the head, neck and jaw, which gets worse as sexual activity progresses. Male patients often only seek treatment for migraines when they experience an orgasmic headache, which can be concerning until diagnosis is delivered.
Unsurprisingly, athletes with injuries such as concussion sustained during sports (such as rugby), show greater incidence of migraine symptoms. A 2005 study found that concussed athletes demonstrated significantly greater migraine symptoms.
4. Migraines are more common than erection problems
More 40-year-old men have migraines than erectile dysfunction (ED). We're constantly hearing about ED and how middle-aged men suffer from this. However, reports have shown that one in 20 40- year-old men suffer from ED, while one in 18 men suffer from migraines – but this topic simply doesn't get the same coverage.
5. Alcohol can also trigger migraines
Drinking alcohol is a common trigger of headaches in both genders, but a higher prevalence of alcohol in the average man's lifestyle means it correlates more with the increased incidence of migraines in men.
Interestingly, while changing weather patterns are a leading trigger of female migraines, this is 50 percent less likely to affect men.
6. PTSD and migraines could be linked
Research has shown that men in the military are more likely to suffer from migraines due to PTSD. Physical and emotional trauma can trigger migraines – and soldiers suffer from both these.
In one study, out of 2,200 returning soldiers, 19 percent suffered from migraines. These migraines apparently impaired their military duties and three months after they returned home, continued to be an issue. The research also highlighted that awareness regarding migraines in servicemen and women remains low.
Migraine treatment tips
It's clear that male and female patients have different causes and symptoms when it comes to migraines. Treatment depends on how often the patient develops headaches and how severe the pain is.
For men, recommendations often include a combination of lifestyle changes, such as a reduction in alcohol consumption and working hours, along with medication – such as triptans - which work to prevent the onset of migraines. The truth is, that there is no magic bullet.
Similar to women the key to overcoming migraines includes regular self-care, eating the right food, staying hydrated and getting enough rest. If symptoms persist, ask your GP for advice.