Did you know that women tend to get more headaches and need more prescription medication for it than men? It’s true! According to Northwestern Medicine, women end up having headaches, including migraines, much more often than men do. How much more often? As much as three times more often! This means that doctors end up prescribing headache medications to more women than men.
What Are the Common Causes of Headaches in Women?
Hormones to Blame
Women might be able to blame their hormones for the frequency of their headaches. Fluctuating levels of estrogen, in particular, can cause migraines or headaches. Plus, it is hormones that cause women to have headaches that are more frequent and last longer than those that are experienced by men.
How is this possible? Well, estrogen does more than regulate reproduction in women; it controls brain chemicals associated with pain sensation. So, when estrogen drops, a headache or migraine can occur, and it can last for four hours or as long as 72 hours. Ouch! For example, women might notice that they get headaches before menstruation because it is during that time that estrogen drops.
Various Other Triggers
There are a lot of other triggers that can cause a woman to experience headaches more often than the men in her life do. These triggers might even lead women to the need for prescription headache medication from doctors.
Examples of common triggers include:
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of physical activity
- Food sensitivity
The Research into Women, Headaches, and Prescription Medications
Headaches are a condition that appears to be on the rise, which has brought about a growing number of studies that are looking into the various trends and explanations behind these temporarily and sometimes chronically debilitating discomforts.
So, what have researchers found regarding prescription headache medications and women?
A recent study conducted by researchers at King’s College in London, Canada, has revealed that doctors are twice as likely to give their female patients a prescription for a headache medication as they are for men who claim to have the same symptoms.
Headaches are among the top ten reasons that patients visit their doctors. Moreover, it is the reason for 20 percent of the sick leave cases across the workforce. A King’s College research team in London studied more than 500,000 family doctor consultations regarding cases involving headaches and came across some interesting findings.
Among the findings were that women are three times more likely to make an appointment to consult with their doctors regarding headache symptoms than their male counterparts. Among women, the consultation rate for headaches was 6.4 percent. Among men, on the other hand, it was only 2.5 percent.
Is Age a Factor for Women Needing Headache Prescriptions?
The age range within which the highest number of consultations occurred was between 15 and 24 years old. One in three women in these cases were prescribed migraine medications, while these drugs were prescribed to only one in four men.
Age also appeared to play a role in the rate at which headache medication was being prescribed. For instance, middle age women were considerably more likely to receive one of these prescriptions than any other age group among females or among men as a whole.
The Need for Specialists and More Research
Among all patients who consulted with their general practitioners regarding headaches, six percent received a referral to go on to consult with a specialist. These referrals were more likely to be handed over to male patients than to female ones. Half of the referrals that were issued to all of the headache patients were to neurologists.
The researchers believe that further study of this nature is required in order to identify why the patterns in headache frequency and in their treatments arise. At the moment, the researchers have not issued any theories to help explain why the trends in headache medication prescriptions and referrals are as they have been shown to be, but they did indicate that they are considering a follow up or additional study in order to help to look into that question.
What Are Some of the Headache Prescription Choices for Women?
There are various over-the-counter headache medication that women can try taking if you experience this pain often. A couple good examples are acetaminophen and ibuprofen.
However, if your headaches are severe, or you are experiencing migraines, it is probably a good idea to consult with your physician to figure out the causes of the pain, and to potentially receive a prescription medication that will be more effective at relieving your symptoms more quickly.
Some examples of prescription medications for migraines include:
Talk to Your Doctor!
Bottom line: it isn’t uncommon for women to experience headaches and migraines more often than men, and it also isn’t uncommon for women to receive prescription medications from their doctors to tackle those headaches. So, if you are one of the many women who deals with this pain often, and over-the-counter medications aren’t giving you the relief that you need, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor for help.