Depending on whose figures you look at, women are two or three times as likely as men to develop migraines, including chronic migraines. That means that one fourth to one third of all migraine sufferers are men.
So why is it that Migraine Buddy, a popular app that helps migraineurs manage their condition, reports that 96% of its users in the US are women? That’s not the case in other countries. Worldwide, more than a quarter of its users are men, and in Japan, nearly a third of its users (32%) are male. So what is different in the US?
New research suggests that misconceptions cause men to get different diagnosis and treatment options from their doctors.
Gender Differences in Migraines Are Real
It’s important to understand that there are major differences in the way women and men experience migraines. Women are at least twice as likely to suffer migraines, are more likely to experience disability related to their headaches, and tend to report more severe pain from their migraines.
With that being said, men with migraines do experience a very serious impact, as confirmed by a recent study. This study was funded by Allergan, and run by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. It looked at the results from two different survey studies, AMPP (American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention) and CaMEO (Chronic Migraine Epidemiology and Outcomes). These results confirmed many of the differences. For example, women were more likely to experience moderate or severe disability for chronic migraine (83%% vs. 71%). The difference was also prevalent in episodic migraine, with 38% of women experiencing moderate or severe disability, compared to 27% of men.
Despite these disability differences, men and women both experience the same frequency of chronic migraines, experiencing about 20 migraine days a month, and episodic migraines, with men experiencing two migraine days a month, while women have three.
Treatment May Be More Disparate
But researchers noted that men and women experienced significant differences in the way their migraines were diagnosed and treated. In particular, men’s migraines may be underdiagnosed partly because of a perception that migraines are a “women’s disorder.”
This may be partly the fault of men who are not seeking out migraine treatment because they don’t want to be stigmatized with a condition that marks them as feminine. The fact that this is true even of such personal aides as an app like Migraine Buddy shows that it may not be doctors who are misdiagnosing, but men themselves who may be underreporting their symptoms. And the fact that this disparity exists in the US, but is not as extreme in other countries suggests it is partly related to US culture.
TMJ Disparity Is Similarly Skewed
TMJ is another condition that has been marked as a “women’s disorder.” So much so, that some studies report that 90% of patients seeking TMJ treatment are women. However, the largest study of the incidence and risk factors for TMJ found that women were only slightly more likely than men to develop the condition. This means that there are likely many men who have TMJ, but aren’t seeking treatment for it.
Men Need to Seek Treatment
If you are a man who is experiencing migraines or TMJ symptoms, it’s important for you to talk to your doctor about the condition. Be honest about your symptoms and answer all questions fully. And don’t accept it if your first treatment doesn’t work for you. The truth is that many migraineurs and people with TMJ have to try many treatments to find the one that works for them.