A migraine is a debilitating headache that is often accompanied by nausea, blurred vision, and hypersensitivity to light, smell, or sound. The vast majority of chronic migraine sufferers — a staggering 85% — are women. It has long been suspected that hormones play a role in migraines, and a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences has found that female sex hormones sensitize a specific cranial nerve — the triminovascular nerve — that has been implicated in migraines.
The female sex hormone estrogen, in particular, has long been associated with migraine occurrence. The study’s researchers found that increased estrogen levels sensitize the trigeminal nerves to migraine triggers, thus explaining why higher estrogen levels are associated with increased incidence of migraine.
The female sex hormone prolactin, on the other hand, is associated with increased severity of migraines once they occur, also by interacting with the trigeminal nerve cells.
What about male sex hormones? The researchers found that testosterone actually plays a protective role against migraine headaches.
The current research was not conducted in humans, however; future clinical studies will show how manipulating the levels of these hormones, and may direct the personalization — and, therefore, the improved effectiveness — of migraine therapy.
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