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Research Suggests More Women Suffer From Migraines

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RALEIGH, N.C. — An exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences highlights the brain and its disorders, the most painful of which are called migraines.

The word migraine comes from the Greek word that means "half a head." The headache can be located on one side or the other, often times associated with nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and/or sound.

One in every 10 Americans suffer from migraines on a regular basis, and according to a new study, most of them are women.

"I mean I'm sick on my stomach, and I'm in a dark room with a cold wet wash rag," said Melinda Joines.

Joines is in the best place in case a migraine hits -- behind the receptionists desk at UNC's Headache Clinic. Most people who ring her phone with a migraine are women just like her.

"The way they talk, I can tell how severe it is. I can tell if they're really stressed out about it. I can tell if it's really bad," Joines said.

Drugs called Triptans help many sufferers find relief. A few other drugs help some people avoid migraines, such as anti-depressants, blood pressure drugs and epileptic seizure medication.

"These are drugs taken every single day in order to keep these headaches from coming," said Dr. Alan Finkel, director of the Headache Clinic.

Finkel said women may suffer more migraines than men because of hormones linked to their menstrual cycles. Some doctors prescribe hormone replacement or birth control pills for long-term suppression of periods.

"It turns 12 guaranteed headaches into maybe three or four. They can plan ahead and they can actually take medicines for that," Finkel said.

Some women do not have migraines until they reach pre-menopause, in their 40s and 50s. There is no cure, but there is a growing number of options to relieve migraines or even prevent them.

Some migraine sufferers also find relief with herbal remedies, relaxation techniques, bio-feedback and even acupuncture.