Whilst not a problem entirely confined to women, there is no doubt that migraine is one of the commonest medical conditions encountered by women during their childhood, working lives and beyond.

Young children of both sexes suffer equally, but even before puberty the number of females affected rises rapidly and at least one in five women will experience migraine in their adult years.

Migraine is a disorder characterised by recurrent severe headaches associated with nausea, sensitivity to lights, noise, smells, movements and other features. About 25% of migraine sufferers also experience flashing lights, blind spots, tingling of the arms and face, and so on. Migraine runs in families and attacks can be triggered by environmental and internal events.

So why do women get more migraines than men? No one knows for certain, but the female hormone oestrogen definitely plays an important part. The sharp fall in the levels of oestrogen which occur just before the menstrual period is a powerful migraine trigger in many women. Some only ever get 'menstrual migraine' of this type. But even for those who get migraines at other times of their cycle, the attacks around their periods can be the most severe and longest-lasting, and most difficult to treat.

Migraines often lessen in frequency during pregnancy, because oestrogen levels remain elevated. Sometimes, however, migraine symptoms appear for the first time when oestrogen levels are high, for example towards the end of pregnancy, or when women take an oestrogen-containing contraceptive pill or have Hormone Replacement Therapy.

Migraine is not an inevitable consequence of the hormonal changes that take place throughout a woman's life, though it may be strongly influenced by them. It is always possible to find ways of managing migraines better, and the team at The Medical Chambers is dedicated to helping women achieve this goal.

Migraine Aura Foundation