Cluster Headaches Are More Common in Men Than Women
In general, studies have shown that women experience more headaches than men. However, there is one particular type of headache, the cluster headache, which is much more prevalent in men.
These headaches often occur in clusters around the same time of day and extend for weeks or even months at a time. Cluster headache sufferers also experience periods of remission where there are no headaches at all.
This pain is focused around one eye and on one side of the head. This means that the headache is often accompanied by a red, watery eye and a stuffy or runny nose on just one side.
Cluster Headaches among Men & Women
Although cluster headaches are around six times more likely in men, women do experience them as well. However, the way that men and women experience cluster headaches is often different. Women tend to have cluster headache peaks in their teenage years and in their 40s, while men most frequently experience them in their 20s. However, the age range for men to commonly have cluster headaches is in the 20s to 50s.
Women sometimes experience shorter periods of cluster headache pain than men; although both genders experience an average of one-to-three cluster headaches per day. While women’s cluster headaches are more frequently accompanied with vomiting and other migraine-type symptoms, both men and women regularly experience strong sensitivities to light and sound.
The Role of Genetics in Cluster Headaches & Triggers
The exact reason why cluster headaches affect more men than women is not known, but researchers and physicians have a few theories as to why this is the case. To start, it is thought that these headaches strike when a trigeminal-autonomic reflex pathway is activated in the brainstem.
It appears that cluster headaches may be somewhat hereditary, so genetics could plays a role in who will develop them in life. Family history is relevant because cluster headaches tend to run in families. Approximately half of people who have cluster headaches have a relevant personal or family history with the condition. Unlike migraines, no direct link has been discovered between cluster headaches and hormones.
Certain triggers can also provoke their onset. There are a few well-established triggers for cluster headaches, including smoking, alcohol use, some foods, and strong smells. Men who have suffered a head injury or concussion may be at a higher risk of cluster headaches as well.
Why Cluster Headaches Are Unique
What’s interesting about cluster headaches is that once the pain begins, it peaks within about five to 10 minutes and usually doesn’t last more than two or three hours. They often occur at night and wake people up from their sleep. Other symptoms that can accompany cluster headaches include increased blood pressure, higher heart rate, and greater sensitivity to light and sound.
Some studies have suggested that cluster headaches are seasonal, which is something that sets them apart from other types of headaches. Men may suffer from them more often in the spring and fall seasons.
Treating Cluster Headaches in Both Genders
The treatment options are largely similar between men and women who have cluster headaches. Unfortunately, there is no specific test that physicians can use to definitively diagnose someone with a cluster headache disorder. Depending on the severity and frequency of the headaches, your doctor may recommend pain relievers, prescription medications, oxygen therapy, or even surgery in very severe cases.
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