Daily Dose: Women More Seriously Affected by Cluster Headaches

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Patient Care brings primary care clinicians a lot of medical news every day—it’s easy to miss an important study. The Daily Dose provides a concise summary of one of the website's leading stories you may not have seen.

On January 13, 2023, we reported on a study published in Neurology that analyzed sex differences in patient demographics, clinical phenotype, chronobiology, triggers, treatment, and lifestyle in a Swedish cluster headache population.

The study

Researchers screened medical records from 2014-2020 from hospitals and neurology clinics across Sweden and identified 874 individuals (66% men) with a verified cluster headache diagnosis to be included in the study. Each participant answered a detailed questionnaire about symptoms, medications, headache triggers, and lifestyle habits and all variables were compared with regards to sex.

Investigators found that more women than men were diagnosed with chronic cluster headache, and attacks lasted longer among women than men. Regarding associated symptoms, women experienced ptosis and restlessness more frequently than men. More women also had a positive family history for cluster headache and reported diurnal rhythmicity of their attacks more often compared with men.

Clinical implications

“This is the largest study on sex differences in verified cluster headache patients to date which may help to increase our understanding in which manner the disorder manifests differently in males and females. Cluster headache is still often misdiagnosed in females, perhaps because certain features of the disease in female patients resemble a migraine-like phenotype. It is therefore of utmost importance for physicians to be aware of these sex differences when working in the clinic and meeting headache patients to be able to give the most effective treatment as fast as possible.”

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