If you suffer from migraines, you know just how much they can ruin your day. Being in the throes of a migraine can leave you incapacitated, with not only a splitting headache but also symptoms like nausea and sensitivity to light or sound. Dealing with chronic, severe headaches is in itself a pain, and unfortunately, women are more susceptible to this condition than men. But there is some good news on the horizon. In a new study, scientists may have discovered why so many women are plagued with migraines.
Emily Galloway, an undergraduate research assistant at the University of Arizona, conducted an experiment on rats and found that the hormone estrogen might be behind many women’s migraines. In her research, which she presented on April 22nd at the 2018 Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego, Galloway discovered a correlation between high estrogen levels and lower levels of a brain cell that regulates sodium ions (NHE1). She found that when NHE1 levels are lower, pain is more likely, and the absorption of medication can be hindered. Female rats (and humans) experience more estrogen fluctuations than males, so Galloway concluded that this could be part of why women get more chronic headaches.
In other words, if you suffer from migraines, your menstrual cycle might be the culprit.
Of course, scientists have known for a long time that there is a connection between the menstrual cycle and migraines. According to The Migraine Trust, the hormone fluctuations when women start their periods can often trigger the condition, and less than 10 percent of women experience a separate condition called a “menstrual migraine.”
According to the Migraine Research Foundation 28 million out of the 38 million people who suffer from the condition in the U.S. are women. On top of this, researchers in 2016 uncovered a potential link between the condition and cardiovascular disease. So, even though Galloway’s experiment didn’t find a treatment or cure for this affliction, it’s still crucial to continue to study this gender imbalance. We’re glad to see science shining a light on this important subject. We just hope that someday, researchers will manage to cure migraines once and for all.