Men suffer from migraines too, but are often not diagnosed

Three times as many women are afflicted by migraines as men, according to many large studies. However, 6% of men do suffer from migraines and that means 9 million American men. However, in our clinic, instead of 75%, over 90% of patients are women. Men are often dragged into the office by their wife, girlfriend, or mother.

A new study presented at the recent meeting of the American Headache Society confirms this observation. Dr. Anne Scher and her colleagues established that men are less likely to see a doctor and when they do see one, they are less likely than women to be given the diagnosis of migraine. Only 59% of men with migraines were given the correct diagnosis, while this number was 77% for women. This is probably due to the perception of migraine as a disease of women. The reasons for misdiagnosis in both sexes include the notion that every migraine sufferer has to have a visual aura (it is present only in about 20%), or that the headache has to be one-sided, or the person has to have nausea. In fact, all of the typical migraine features do not have to be present. It is sufficient to have nausea and throbbing pain or light sensitivity and inability to function normally, or light and noise sensitivity and one-sided throbbing pain, etc.

Migraines are often misdiagnosed as sinus headaches because in some people migraine is accompanied by a clear nasal discharge or because the pain is localized in the area of sinuses. True sinus headaches are usually accompanied by yellow or green nasal discharge.

Migraines can be also mistaken for tension-type headaches, but tension-type headaches are milder and never severe, not accompanied by nausea and other symptoms, and typically respond to over-the-counter medications.

One type of headaches that is significantly more common in men, is cluster headache. Cluster headaches are also often misdiagnosed as migraine or sinus headache. The name comes from the fact that these headaches occur in clusters – every day for a month or two and then they go away for a year or longer. The pain is extremely intense, always one-sided and localized around the eye, usually accompanied by tearing and runny nose on the side of the headache. These headaches tend to wake the person from sleep, but can occur during the day and last anywhere from half an hour to a few hours. Some of the treatments for cluster headaches are different from those for migraines, so a correct diagnosis is crucial. There are many posts on this blog and an article on our site devoted to cluster headaches, so please do a search if you are interested in learning more.

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