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Migraine Plus PTSD 4 Times More Likely in Men: Study

WEDNESDAY, June 8 (HealthDay News) -- New findings on the link between migraine headaches and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) suggest that sex differences play an important role in the connection.

As individual health issues, both PTSD and migraine are more common among women. However, the new study found that men with migraines are four times more likely than women with migraines to also have PTSD.

In addition, the investigators found that the type of trauma a person experiences and when it happens to them also seems to affect the sex differences in the migraine-PTSD connection, according to the report published online June 1 in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain.

The study authors noted that when a person faces a traumatic life event before the age of 13, their risk of depression is greater than their risk of developing PTSD. The opposite is true when the traumatic life event occurs after 12 years of age, they explained in a journal news release.

To support their finding that the type of trauma and age when it occurred influences sex differences in the risk of developing PTSD, the authors pointed out that children are most vulnerable to sexual abuse under the age of 13. In contrast, car accidents and combat trauma -- two of the most common traumas reported by people who have migraines and PTSD -- typically happen to those older than 12.

The researchers also noted that those who suffer from both PTSD and migraines are also more likely to have headache-related disability.

"The current data indicate that behavioral PTSD treatment alone can positively influence chronic pain conditions and disability. Therefore, physicians should consider screening migraine sufferers for PTSD, and men in particular. Further, in those migraineurs with PTSD, behavioral therapy should be considered, alone or in combination with pharmacological treatment," study author B. Lee Peterlin said in the news release.

The researchers suggested that additional study examining the role of sex differences in the connection between PTSD and migraines is needed to validate their findings and determine the appropriate forms of treatment for those with both conditions.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on migraines.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, news release, June 2011

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