Testosterone and Male Headache

Some research suggests that testosterone therapy may help alleviate the pain of migraine and cluster headaches. A 2006 study by the Cleveland Clinic Foundation described the relationship of both cortisol and testosterone to cluster headaches.

A few important terms:

  • Cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” is a corticosteroid hormone that is produced by the adrenal cortex. Cortisol increases blood pressure and blood sugar, and has a wide array of effects on the body's organ systems.

  • Testosterone is a steroid hormone secreted by both males and females; in men, it is released by the testes and the adrenal gland, and is responsible for supporting secondary male sexual characteristics.

  • DHEA is a hormone that is secreted by the adrenal gland and is a precursor to the sex hormones androgens and estrogens.

  • Pregnenolone is a steroid hormone that is the precursor for all other corticosteroids.

  • Melatonin, known as the “sleep hormone,” is a hormone that is synthesized in the pineal gland that helps regulate the body's sleep cycle.

  • This study demonstrated the possibility that inadequate production of cortisol and testosterone were seen in sufferers of cluster headaches. Other studies have found similar results: patients who are diagnosed with cluster and migraine headaches tend to have lower-than-standard levels of total testosterone, DHEA sulfate, and pregnenolone. Similarly, both men and women with migraines have been shown to have lower blood levels of magnesium and melatonin than individuals who do not suffer from migraines. Treatment possibilities include a range of hormone and steroid therapies. See Chapter 20 for more information on future migraine treatments.


    Estrogen and migraine in women have been shown to have a direct correlation. Menstruating women experience more migraines than younger girls, and migraines are frequently triggered by the decrease of estrogen that occurs during a woman's menstrual cycle. Estrogen supplementation has been used with some success in treating menstrual migraine.

    Testosterone in Women

    Decrease in testosterone is also shown to be a factor in women who experience migraines. Testosterone typically declines in females as they approach menopause; it can also occur in women who have had their ovaries removed. Research shows that migraine prevalence is increased for women who, for either reason, have very low testosterone.

    See Chapter 11 for more on women and migraines.

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