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Excruciating cluster headaches even more severe for women

“Cluster headache is still often misdiagnosed."

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Troubled upset brunette European woman keeps hand on forehead stands distressed focused down suffers from headache faces troublesome situation dressed casually poses against green background
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By Gwyn Wright via SWNS

Excruciating cluster headaches are more severe in women than men, according to a new study.

Scientists say the short but nasty bouts of pain, which are felt on one side of the head, are even worse in women even though they are more common in men.

They can occur for days, weeks or even months in a row and each one tends to last 15 minutes to three hours.

Researchers in Sweden found females were more likely to be diagnosed with chronic cluster headaches, which can attack sufferers for more than a year without stopping.

They found more than double the number of women than men were diagnosed with chronic cluster headaches – 18 percent compared with nine percent.

Attacks also lasted longer for women than men.

For example, eight percent of women said bouts of it lasted for between four and seven months compared with five percent of men.

In contrast, 26 percent of women said the aches lasted less than a month compared to 30 percent of men.

Women were also more likely to report the attacks happening at various times of the day than men.

In total, 74 percent of them said attacks happened at different times compared with 63 percent of men.

A family history of cluster headaches was found in 15 percent of women compared with seven percent of men.

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For the study, 874 people who had been diagnosed with the condition answered questionnaires about their symptoms, medications, headache triggers and lifestyle habits.

Two-thirds of them (66 percent) were men while one-third (34 percent) were men.

Study author Dr. Andrea Belin from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm said: “Cluster headache is still often misdiagnosed in women, perhaps because some aspects can be similar to migraine.

“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.

“While the ratio of men to women with cluster headaches 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 headaches than men.

“It’s possible this could contribute to the higher rate of chronic cluster headaches in women.”

The findings were published in the journal Neurology.

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