WOMEN are three times more likely to suffer migraines than men, and researchers at the University of Newcastle (UON) suspect hormones, and their affect on the brain, could be to blame.
The team at the UON Clinical Nutrition Research Centre predict that women who suffer from "menstrual migraine" may have poorer blood vessel function in the brain compared to those who do not.
If proven true, the research could facilitate the development of treatments to counteract the migraines, and alleviate the often debilitating symptoms.
PhD candidate Jemima Dzator said migraines were estimated to cost the Australian economy $35.7 billion each year due to health care and loss of productivity.
She said one-in-10 women experienced menstrual migraines that were likely due to changes in hormone levels, particularly oestrogen.
"Studies have shown that women are more likely to get migraines around menstruation - and this is where oestrogen levels dramatically plummet," she said.
"Studies have also shown that migraines tend to worsen in women transitioning to menopause, when oestrogen levels are on the decline."
Ms Dzator said their "ultimate goal" was find treatments that would help to reduce the frequency, severity and intensity of menstrual migraines.
"These are migraines that occur at certain points of the menstrual cycle, usually like clockwork," she said.
"Migraines aren’t just a regular headache - some people experience loss of vision, impaired balance and nausea that can last hours to days.
"And menstrual migraines have also been shown to be more recurrent, more painful, longer lasting and more resistant to current treatment compared to regular migraines.
"But there is not a lot of research regarding menstrual migraine."
Ms Dzator said the team was trying to understand what was going on in the brain of women who suffered from these hormonal migraines.
"Once we have determined that, we will be aiming to test an appropriate dietary or nutritional supplement to see if that could help counteract menstrual migraines," she said.
The team is looking for women aged over 18 who suffer from menstrual migraines, as well as women who do not who could serve as "controls" in the study.
The study aims to examine links between blood flow in the brain and menstrual migraine.
Eligible participants will be invited to visit the research centre at UON on one occasion to have the blood flow in their brain measured by non-invasive ultrasound.
Participants would be advised of the overall findings of the study, as well as their individualised results, once the data had been analysed.
To find out more, call the Clinical Nutrition Research Centre on (02) 4921 8616 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.