More than 37 million people in the US suffer from migraine. The National Headache Foundation estimates that up to 50% of them do not get diagnosed.
Reasons Why Migraine Is Underdiagnosed in Men
There might be several reasons for this. The first is there are three times more female sufferers than male, so migraine might be perceived by some as “women’s disease.” Many doctors might not diagnose migraine in men, and dismiss it instead as one of the other kinds of headaches, such as the most common; tension headache.
Men might think their migraines are just a fact of life. Statistics show that up until puberty, boys actually suffer from migraine more than girls. Therefore, the headaches these boys experience might seem ordinary to them; something they just have to live with.
Men might try to “tough it out” when getting a headache, or attribute any headache they have to stress rather than realize they might have a migraine that has been triggered in some other way.
Triggers of Migraine in Men
We know there is a definite connection between hormones and migraine in women, but what could cause it in men? A growing body of research suggests that migraines are triggered by a range of causes, including foods, food additives, drinks, and lifestyle issues.
Common food triggers include salty snacks, mature cheeses, and pre-packaged convenience foods, which a lot of single men are more likely to consume than men living with a partner. Another common trigger is monosodium glutamate (MSG), found in many foods and Chinese food from restaurants and take-out. MSG can be disguised on food labels as “natural flavoring” or “meat tenderizer.”
Being hungry is another trigger for migraines. Men should eat regular meals, not snack all day. Being dehydrated is a trigger as well. Drinking more pure water (not coffee, tea, energy drinks, juice or alcohol) can help. So can steering away from salty snacks or food high in carbohydrates and low in protein, such as cake, cookies, candy, pasta and white rice. These foods can also be dehydrating.
Men are correct in one sense regarding migraine: stress and tension can lead to migraines. So, can a lack of sleep. Too much caffeine and alcohol, often used to cope with stress, can also trigger migraines. Men might think their headaches are due to having too little caffeine and them needing a “pick me up.” They might dismiss a headache after alcohol as just a hangover when it is in fact a migraine.
Getting the Right Treatment
Keeping a headache diary can help men pinpoint patterns and try to discover what might be their own individual migraine triggers. The diary can help them get the right treatment to prevent migraines, or to reduce severity and relieve pain if they do get a full-blown migraine.
One other key reason for keeping a headache diary if you are a man with headaches is that men are actually more prone to certain other kinds of headaches as compared with women. These are the cluster headache and the coital headache.
Cluster headaches usually affect one eye, and the pain comes and goes, with several short headaches a few hours apart. If we compare this to migraines, they can be on either side of the head rather than just the eye, with steady pain throughout the duration of the headache. The “clusters” of headaches are what gives these headaches their name.
Coital headache is related to sexual activity, with some experiencing headache during sex and others getting a headache at the climax stage. Keep a headache diary and see what a difference it can make to your health.