When the question is raised why so many more women have migraine compared to men, many are satisfied with the simplistic answer,“It’s hormones”. This answer isn’t getting women better treatment, so it’s time we start to dig a little deeper.
Do hormones play a role in gender differences when it comes to migraine? Yes. But a new study is getting more specific – and looking for ways that migraine could be better treated in women.
Writing about the study, ScienceDaily made a couple of interesting points.
First, not only do more women have migraine, they also don’t respond as well to treatment.
Also, many new treatments and discoveries start out as experiments with rats and mice. But often, only male rodents are used. Could that by why our treatments are skewed to help men more than women?
This research, however, was done using both male and female rats. The researchers looks at NHE-1 levels. According to the article:
NHE1 regulates the transport of protons and sodium ions across cell membranes, including those that make up the blood-brain barrier. When NHE1 isn’t present at high enough levels or doesn’t function properly, it can cause increased pain signaling that leads to a migraine. Problems with NHE1 can also directly alter the ability of migraine drugs to cross the blood-brain barrier.
Surprisingly, NHE-1 levels were four times higher in male rats. It appeared that when estrogen levels were high, NHE-1 levels were low. That could mean that defences are lower for females when migraine attacks.
Whether or not this will lead to new treatment, it does demonstrate the need to dig deeper into the way pain and migraine function, and especially to look at how it they may function differently in women. It could be that we’re been missing out on the best treatments for women because we just aren’t looking carefully enough.
For more information:
- ScienceDaily: Potential source of gender differences in migraines
- Study Abstract: Role of Sex Hormones in Regulation of Sodium-Proton Exchanger NHE1: Implications for Migraine
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