Migraines aren’t headaches just for women. Men also get these excruciating and often debilitating headaches. If you’re one of them, listen up! For men, migraines could be a sign that something else is going on with your health…and your sex hormones.

It is well-documented that fluctuating levels of the female hormone estrogen are triggers for migraines in women. Women are three times more likely to get migraines than men during childbearing years (when estrogen levels tend to fluctuate greatly), and migraine attacks in females are most frequent during puberty, menstruation and pregnancy, when levels can spike like crazy.

Men have estrogen in their bodies, too, though far less of it, and it hasn’t been known whether estrogen may trigger migraines in men, as well.

But now it is known, thanks to new research.

Study: Using blood samples, researchers from four medical centers in the Netherlands compared levels of estradiol (an estrogen) and the male sex hormone testosterone in 17 men who had migraines at least three times a month and 24 men who did not have migraines. Both groups also filled out two questionnaires used in diagnosing low testosterone (androgen deficiency). The men in both groups were age 47 on average and matched for age and weight.

Results: The men with migraines had significantly higher estrogen levels than the other men. Testosterone levels, on the other hand, were similar in both groups. Interestingly, even though their testosterone levels were not unusually low, 61% of the men in the migraine group reported symptoms of androgen deficiency (compared with 27% of the men in the control group)…and androgen deficiency symptoms were more severe in the migraine group. The culprit here, researchers said, was the ratio of testosterone to estrogen in the men with migraines—they had too little of the former to balance out their overabundance of the latter.

Bottom line: The sample size for this study was small — larger studies are needed to confirm these results.

Meanwhile, hormonal imbalances in men can have other wider-ranging health implications. For example, androgen deficiency is associated with risk for other health conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.

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