Gender influences headache characteristics with increasing age in migraine patients

Cephalalgia. 2015 Aug;35(9):792-800. doi: 10.1177/0333102414559735. Epub 2014 Nov 25.


Background and aims: Migraine headache is one of the most common primary headache disorders and is three times more prevalent in women than in men, especially during the reproductive ages. The neurobiological basis of the female dominance has been partly established. The present study aimed to investigate the effect of gender on the headache manifestations in migraine patients.

Methods: The study group consisted of 2082 adult patients from five different hospitals' tertiary care-based headache clinics. The relationship between headache characteristics and gender was evaluated in migraine with aura (MwA) and migraine without aura (MwoA). The duration, severity, frequency of headache and associated symptoms were evaluated in both genders and age-dependent variations and analyzed in two subgroups.

Results: Women with migraine were prone to significantly longer duration and intensity of headache attacks. Nausea, phonophobia and photophobia were more prevalent in women. Median headache duration was also longer in women than in men in MwA (p = 0.013) and MwoA (p < 0.001). Median headache intensity was higher in women than in men in MwA (p = 0.010) and MwoA (p = 0.009). The frequency of nausea was significantly higher in women than in men in MwA (p = 0.049). Throbbing headache quality and associated features (nausea, photophobia, and phonophobia) were significantly more frequent in women than in men in MwoA. The gender impact varied across age groups and significant changes were seen in female migraineurs after age 30. No age-dependent variation was observed in male migraineurs.

Conclusion: Gender has an influence on the characteristics of the headache as well as on the associated symptoms in migraine patients, and this impact varies across the age groups, particularly in women.

Keywords: Women; attack duration; aura; gender; headache symptoms; intensity; migraine; nausea; phonophobia; photophobia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors