“Cluster headache is still often misdiagnosed in women, perhaps because some aspects can be similar to migraine,” said study author Andrea C. Belin, Ph.D., of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. “It is important for physicians to be aware of how the disorder manifests differently in men and women so the most effective treatment can be given as fast as possible.”
The study included 874 participants with cluster headaches, 66% of whom were men and 34% of whom were women.
Participants filled out an extensive questionnaire describing their symptoms, medications, headache triggers, and lifestyle behaviors.
Symptoms of Chronic Cluster Headache
Women were more likely than men to be diagnosed with chronic cluster headaches. Chronic cluster headache is characterized as repeated cluster headache attacks lasting one year or more without interruption, or with brief intermissions with no symptoms lasting less than three months. Chronic cluster headache was detected in 18% of women compared to 9% of men.
Do Cluster Headaches Occur More Commonly in Men or Women
Women were also more vulnerable to attacks than men. For example, 8% of women had headache attacks lasting four to seven months on average, compared to 5% of men, and 26% of women reported bouts lasting less than one month, compared to 30% of men.
Women were also 74% more likely than males to say that their attacks occurred at different times throughout the day. Women were 15% to 7% more likely than men to have a family member with a history of cluster headaches.
“While the ratio of men to women with cluster headache 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 headache than men,” Belin said. “It’s possible this could contribute to the higher rate of chronic cluster headache in women.”
One disadvantage of the study was that the participants recounted the information from memory, thus they may not have remembered everything correctly.
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