Top 10 Migraine Triggers

October 19, 2011

Migraines can be triggered by one or more things - physical or emotional. Many people who suffer from personality disorders experience migraines. There are mild cases but then again a migraine can go on for days and needs professional attention. For the migraine suffer, the headaches may begin with an aura which looks a lot like looking through a kaleidoscope, wherein the blood vessels constrict in the brain, at which time medication should return them to their normal flow before they enlarge beyond theorem and pulse - which leads to other symptoms in the body.

Medication can be as simple as over-the-counter drugs or something prescribed by a doctor, which one should always carry with them if they see an aura at the onset of a migraine. It's all about trial and error and knowing your body. As migraines are genetic, asking another member of the family what triggers them can save time.

Headaches, Migraines

Migraine (from the Greek words hemi, meaning half, and kranion, meaning skull) is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by moderate to severe headaches, and nausea. It is about three times more common in women than in men.

The typical migraine headache is unilateral (affecting one half of the head) and pulsating in nature and lasting from four to 72 hours; symptoms include nausea, vomiting, photophobia (increased sensitivity to light) and phonophobia (increased sensitivity to sound); the symptoms are generally aggravated by routine activity. Approximately one-third of people who suffer from migraine headaches perceive an aura - transient visual, sensory, language, or motor disturbances signaling the migraine will soon occur.

Initial treatment is with analgesics for the headache, an antiemetic for the nausea, and the avoidance of triggers. The cause of migraine headache is unknown; the most supported theory is that it is related to hyperexcitability of the cerebral cortex and/or abnormal control of pain neurons in the trigeminal nucleus of the brainstem.

Studies of twins indicate a 60- to 65-percent genetic influence upon their propensity to develop migraine headaches.

Moreover, fluctuating hormone levels indicate a migraine relation: 75 percent of adult patients are women, although migraine affects approximately equal numbers of prepubescent boys and girls. Propensity to migraine headache sometimes disappears during pregnancy, but in some women, migraines may become more frequent.

Top 10 Migraine Triggers
AOL - October 19, 2011

Stress and food are just two possible types of migraine headache causes. Be aware of these and other migraine triggers to limit attacks.

If you are one of the almost 30 million Americans who get migraine headaches, you probably have some migraine triggers that you know you must avoid. But there may be others that you don't yet recognize as possible headache causes. "People with migraine headache seem to have a hyperactive brain. Things that other people may tolerate can trigger a headache if you have a migraine brain," says Athena Kostidis, MD, a neurologist and assistant professor in neurology at Loyola University Chicago. Consider these migraine trigger possibilities, especially if you keep a journal to track headaches.


"Any type of alcoholic beverage can trigger a migraine attack, but some types of alcohol are worse than others. The best advice is to drink in moderation and avoid any type of alcoholic drink that has triggered a headache in the past," advises Dr. Kostidis. Alcoholic drinks that contain sulfites and other impurities are the worst for migraines. A good way to avoid these headache triggers is to avoid dark drinks like red wine, dark beer, bourbon, and whiskey.

Foods and Beverages

Any beverage with caffeine can be a migraine trigger. A small amount of caffeine can actually be good for a headache, but if you drink lots of caffeine and stop suddenly, you can get a caffeine withdrawal headache that leads to a migraine attack. Many foods have been identified as headache causes, including lunch meats processed with nitrates, monosodium glutamate (MSG) found in Asian foods and meat tenderizers, aged cheeses that contain tyramine, and some artificial sweeteners. "It is a good idea to keep a food diary so you can identify and avoid your food triggers," says Kostidis.

Changes in the Weather

"Extremes of weather, very hot or very cold, as well as changes in atmospheric pressure can be headache causes and migraine triggers," says Kostidis. Extreme humidity may also be a migraine trigger. Studies show that a sudden rise in temperature or a sudden change in barometric pressure can trigger a migraine. Some doctors suggest taking migraine headache medication in advance if you learn of a sudden change in the weather forecast.

Bright Lights

"Sensitivity to light is a classic migraine headache symptom. Bright lights, florescent lights, or flashing lights may be migraine triggers or may make an existing headache worse. It might be a good idea to arrange your work environment so that you avoid these types of lights," advises Kostidis. Studies show that bright light is a trigger for 30 to 60 percent of migraine sufferers. One way to avoid this headache trigger is to wear sunglasses when exposed to bright light.


"Common medications that may cause migraine headache include birth control medications, hormone replacement medications in women, and some blood pressure medications," says Kostidis. Other drug-related headache causes include rebound headaches from overuse of over-the-counter pain relievers. There's always drug rehabilitation centers available if you know anyone seeking medication abuse help. If you suspect a medication related headache, talk to your doctor about changing to a different medication or changing how you take your medication.

Noise Exposure

"Noise acts very much like light on a migraine headache," notes Kostidis. Loud noise or high-pitched noise can be a migraine trigger. If you already have a migraine headache, loud noise or any noise can make your headache worse. You might want to have some ear plugs handy for when you can't get away from the offensive sounds. Once you have a migraine, find a dark and quiet place to lie down until your migraine medication kicks in.


"Odors, including perfumes, colognes, and other strong or pungent smells, are common migraine triggers," says Kostidis. A recent study of migraine headache triggers in men found that strong odors were the second most common migraine causes after stress. The study also found that 73 percent of the migraine sufferers reported that strong odors made an existing headache worse. Perfumes, cigarette smoke, and cleaning products were among the most common offenders.

Daily Activities

"Among the most common migraine triggers are sleeping too much or too little and skipping meals,” says Kostidis. “One strategy for preventing migraines is to stay on a regular schedule for daily activities. Try to eat, sleep, and wake at the same times every day. This can be especially important on weekends." Exercising too much, especially in the heat or when you are out of shape, has also been linked to migraine headaches.


Smoking is a common headache cause for many people and can be a migraine trigger for people who smoke or who are exposed to secondhand smoke. Studies show that when you quit smoking, headaches decrease. "Nicotine causes changes in the blood vessels in your brain, and cigarette smoke can irritate nerves in the nose and throat. Both of these effects can trigger migraine headache," says Kostidis.


Last but certainly not least on the migraine trigger list is stress. Stress may be the biggest headache cause of all because it is not just negative stress that can affect you. Stress can come in the form of anxiety, life changes, mental fatigue, grief, or even excitement. "In addition to the stress itself being a headache trigger, the let-down period after stress is a very common migraine trigger," notes Kostidis. One of the best things you can do to prevent migraine headache is learn to identify stress, avoid it when possible, and practice stress reduction techniques that work for you.