Migraines have been linked to sexual desire in new research that could improve understanding of the crippling headaches.
In a relatively small study, 68 young men and women were surveyed about recent headaches and sexual desire.
Migraine sufferers reported levels of sexual desire 20 percent higher than those suffering from tension headaches.
Overall, men in the study reported levels of sexual desire that were 24 percent higher than women. But women with migraines had levels of sexual desire similar to men with mere tension headaches.
"Our study suggests that sexual desire and migraine headaches may be influenced by the same brain chemical," said Timothy Houle of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. "The results support the idea that migraine, as a syndrome, is associated with other common phenomena. Understanding of this link will help us to better understand the nature of migraine and perhaps lead to improved treatment."
The findings, announced today, will be detailed in Headache, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Headache Society.
Sexual desire and migraine headache have both previously been linked to levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that also plays a role in depression. An excess of serotonin may be associated with decreased libido, and migraine sufferers are reported to have low levels of the chemical, Houle and his colleagues note.
Because high levels of serotonin are associated with low sexual desire, and migraine sufferers have low levels of the chemical, it was predicted that they would report higher levels of sex drive.
"The study demonstrated that migraine patients in general may experience higher levels of sexual desire than others," said Houle. "They appeared to be aware of this, rating their sex drive as being higher than others their age and gender."