People suffer from migraines know how much it can interfere in their life. Many sufferers are unable to function with it. Prevention is the best way to deal with it. Most sufferers find that keeping them away is much easier to deal with than trying to get them to go away when they are in pain. That’s why understanding the causes of a migraine is so important. That way you can decrease the episodes and severity of them.
Causes of Migraines
Genetics and environment are usually the causes of migraines. People who are genetically predisposed to migraines often are more sensitive to the environmental causes of them.
When a migraine starts, the changes in the brainstem tap the trigeminal nerve. This is a pain pathway, which is what causes so much discomfort.
Many studies have found that imbalances in brain chemicals such as serotonin lead to the onset of migraines. There’s not much more that is known about serotonin and other brain chemicals at this point, so there’s a lot of research that still needs to be done to understand their role in migraines.
What we do know is serotonin levels decrease during attacks. When this happens the trigeminal nerve releases neuropeptides, which then go to the outer covering of the brain. That’s what causes the pain. In addition to the neuropeptides, calcitonin gene-related peptides also can travel to the outer part of the brain to cause pain.
Now that you know what causes the pain, it’s important to know what triggers it.
- Hormonal changes – When estrogen levels rise and fall with a women’s menstrual cycle, migraines are much more likely to attack. Pregnancy can also increase the chances of a migraine. Some women find hormonal medication such as oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy causes migraines, as well.
- Foods – Certain foods can cause migraines such as cheese, processed foods, and salt. Some people find they suffer from migraines when they skip meals.
- Sweeteners and MSG – These additives have been found to cause migraines for some people. Some people have no idea that is the cause of their migraines until they eliminate them and see a reduction in attacks.
- Caffeinated or Alcoholic Drinks – Caffeine and alcohol can alter brain chemicals, which can lead to migraines. Limiting those types of drinks can help with migraine management.
- Stress – Stress is a common cause of migraines. Many people only suffer from migraine attacks when they are dealing with a highly stressful situation.
- Strong Sensory Stimuli – Loud sounds, bright lights, and strong smells can spark a migraine attack for some people. This can hard to avoid, but trying to limit exposure as much as possible is wise.
- Sleep Disturbances – Changes in sleep patterns can bring on migraines, especially when not getting enough sleep or trying to stay up all night and sleeping during the day. It’s best to stick to a sleep schedule and changing that schedule a little bit at a time when you have to have a different one.
- Changes in Weather – Some people suffer from a migraine when the weather changes or there is a drastic rise or fall in barometric pressure.
People who suffer from migraines usually have a family history of them. Their first one occurs in childhood or adolescence. People often see the worst of their attacks in their 30s, and they usually decrease in frequency and severity after that age. Women usually find an improvement in their migraines after menopause.
Prevention Treatment for Migraine Headaches
Prevention can be much easier than treating migraines already underway. Speak to your doctor about possible prevention medications available. Many migraine sufferers take medication daily to avoid migraines.
A migraine journal can be helpful in identifying what causes them for you. Detailing exactly when you suffer a migraine, what you ate, what you did, and where you are in your menstrual cycle (if you’re a woman) can help you know when another one will hit, so you can at least ward off the pain and inconvenience of the headaches. Treatment is usually much more effective if taken before the headache has started.
Speak to your doctor about your migraines before trying any of the advice above. A physician is the best source of information for prevention and treatment of migraines.