Men and Headaches


Although migraine headaches are more common in women, who account for 75% of migraine sufferers, men do experience migraine headaches.You just don’t seem to hear about it as much—until it affects your favorite football or basketball player.

Men's symptoms are no different from women's symptoms, although men are not affected by hormonal fluctuations like women are. What is different, though, is that men are somewhat less likely to seek medical care for their migraines—and when they do, they are less likely to receive a migraine diagnosis.

Middle-aged men with migraine are 42% more likely to suffer a heart attack than are non-migraineurs.

What are some unique facts about men and migraine?

Men are somewhat less likely to seek medical care for their headaches than women are, and are also a little less likely to receive an appropriate migraine diagnosis. This is unfortunate, since having migraine increases a man’s risk of having a heart attack. We do not yet know whether controlling migraines prevents this risk, but being under the care of a physician helps to monitor the risk—and take action if necessary.

Other Headaches in Men 

Tension-Type Headache

Tension-type headache, the most commonly occurring headache, occurs almost equally in men and women.

Chronic Daily Headache

This headache type occurs in both men and women, and is somewhat more prevalent in women. However, a study of chronic daily headache found that men were more likely to report disability than were women.

Cluster Headache

Cluster headaches occur far more prevalently in men than in women. In the past, an 8:1 male to female ratio had been reported. More recently, a 5.4:1 male to female ratio had been reported, and now, the ratio has dropped to 2.1:1, suggesting lifestyle changes for women have increased their risk and reduced the difference in the ratio. Cluster headache is defined as severe or very severe unilateral pain occurring around, behind, or above the eye/orbit or in the temporal area, and occurring anywhere from once every other day to 8 times a day, lasting 15 minutes to 3 hours.

The headache pain must be accompanied by at least one of the following:

  • Tears
  • Red eye
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Forehead or facial sweating
  • Pupil constriction or droopy eyelid (ptosis is the technical term)
  • A sense of restlessness or agitation

Sex Headaches

Contrary to popular belief, sexually-induced orgasmic headaches occur more commonly in men. There are two types. Pre-orgasmic headaches are a dull ache in the head and neck, associated with awareness of tight neck and jaw muscles during sexual activity, that increases during increasing sexual excitement. Orgasmic headache is a sudden, severe, explosive headache occurring at orgasm. Understandably, this can be quite alarming the first time it occurs. It would be best to see your doctor for evaluation to make certain it is not a sign of something more serious.

Posttraumatic Headaches and Traumatic Brain Injury

Men and women both experience head trauma, and are thus both affected by posttraumatic headaches. However, recent emphasis on post-traumatic headache due to traumatic brain injury in football and other sports, as well as in returning Iraq and Afghanistan War soldiers, suggests that there may be a male predominance.

If you are a man with persistent headaches, seek medical help. It might prevent more than just headache pain.