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'Cluster headaches more severe among women'

Researchers discovered that 18% of women, compared to only 9% of men, are given a chronic cluster headaches diagnosis

By Web Desk
December 22, 2022
A woman has her hand on her face.— Unsplash
A woman has her hand on her face.— Unsplash

Women seem to experience excruciating cluster headaches more frequently than men do, a recent study published in the journal Neurology revealed.

Even though they are more frequent in men, scientists claim that the brief but intense pain attacks that people normally experience on one side of the brain are worse in women. Each one typically lasts between 15 minutes and three hours, and they can happen again for days, weeks, or even months at a time.

According to Swedish researchers, women are more likely to be given the diagnosis of chronic cluster headaches, which can last for more than a year without any relief. Additionally, they discovered that 18% of women, compared to only 9% of men, are given a chronic cluster headaches diagnosis.

Attacks on women lasted longer than on men. For instance, compared to 5% of men, 8% of women reported that their headache episodes lasted between four and seven months. In contrast, compared to 30% of male patients, 26% of female patients said that the aches subsided after a month.

Women were significantly more likely than men to report attacks occurring at different times of the day. Compared to 63% of men, 74% of female patients said that their cluster headaches occurred at various times.

A family history of cluster headaches was found in 15% of women compared with only 7% of men. For the study, 874 people with the condition answered questionnaires about their symptoms, medications, headache triggers, and lifestyle habits.

Two-thirds of the sample (66%) were men while one-third (34%) were women.

“Cluster headache is still often misdiagnosed in women, perhaps because some aspects can be similar to migraine,” said study author Andrea Belin, PhD, of the Karolinska Institutet, in a media release. 

“It is important for physicians to be aware of how the disorder manifests differently in men and women so the most effective treatment can be given as fast as possible.”

“While the ratio of men to women with cluster headache has been shifting over the years, it is still considered mainly a disorder of men, making it more difficult for women with milder symptoms to be diagnosed with cluster headache than men,” Belin continued. “It’s possible this could contribute to the higher rate of chronic cluster headache in women.”