Cluster headache may be more severe for women

Eighteen percent of women were diagnosed with chronic cluster headache, compared to 9% of men.


Cluster headaches are short but very severe ones that can last for several days or weeks. The duration of the headaches can range from 15 minutes to three hours. Usually found to be more common in men than women, a new study suggests that the headache may be more severe for women.

The study aims to determine how the disorder manifests differently in men and women so the most effective treatment can be given as fast as possible.

To do so, scientists asked a detailed questionnaire to 874 people diagnosed with cluster headaches (66% male and 34% female) about their symptoms, medications, headache triggers, and lifestyle habits. Women, as compared to men, were more likely to be diagnosed with chronic cluster headaches. Eighteen percent of women were diagnosed with chronic cluster headaches, compared to 9% of men.

Andrea C. Belin, Ph.D., of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, said, “Attacks also lasted longer for women than men. For example, 8% of women said headache bouts lasted an average of four to seven months, compared to 5% of men, while 26% of women said bouts lasted less than one month, compared to 30% of men.”

“Women were also more likely to report that their attacks occurred at various times throughout the day than men, 74% to 63%. Women were more likely to have a family member with a history of cluster headache, 15% to 7%.”

“While the ratio of men to women with cluster headaches 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 headaches than men. It’s possible this could contribute to the higher rate of chronic cluster headache in women.”

Although, the information provided by the participants themselves. So there is a limitation that the participants may not have remembered everything correctly.

Journal Reference:

  1. Mark J. Burish, Richard B. Lipton et al. Cluster Headache: Worse in Women. Neurology. DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000206807
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