What Causes A Migraine?

What Causes A Migraine
What Causes A Migraine


People who have migraines might not be exactly worried about what causes them while they are in the midst of an attack; however, once the attack is over, it can be helpful to understand what causes them as it could be helpful in preventing future migraines and in treating them.

What are Migraines?

Migraines are headaches that take the word headache to a new level. Typically they are recurring; however, some people only experience one or two a year. They are often accompanied by severe sensitivity to light and sound with nausea and vomiting as well. Migraines can last for several days, during which time the person is basically unable to function due to the pain level.

What Causes A Migraine?

Researchers have not determined the exact cause of migraines; however, there are many theories that exist and that are still being tested scientifically. The most common theory is that there is a chemical imbalance in the brain that involves serotonin.

Researchers have found that people with migraines have low levels of serotonin. These low levels cause the neurotransmitters in the brain to take defensive action. The brain releases neuro peptides which cause the blood vessels to become enlarged and thus put pressure on the brain and cause the headache. This is how they think the headache occurs; however, they don’t yet know what causes or triggers the headache. Some of the thoughts are listed below and could prove helpful in preventing migraines.
  • Exercise: Extreme sports and intense exercise is thought to be a migraine trigger. The brain may release too much serotonin and then react to the lowered level causing a migraine.
  • Foods: There are many foods and additives that have been shown to trigger migraine headaches, including: MSG (mono sodium glutamate), alcohol, red wine, cheese, chocolate, processed foods, and canned foods.
  • Stress: This is a major trigger for migraines, although the reason behind it is not yet exactly known. Stress is a common factor in many health problems and should be eliminated if at all possible.
  • Weather changes: Any change in the weather, from humidity to temperature changes can trigger a migraine headache. Many people will say they can tell the weather is changing due to their head starting to hurt.
  • Hormones: Hormonal fluctuations, such as what happens in women’s bodies, can cause migraine headaches to occur. This is particularly true of women who are going through menopause or are in peri menopause.
  • Stimulus: Some people have a very keen sense of smell, sight or sound and some external stimulus can trigger headaches. For example, a strong perfume, lights at a concert or certain pitches in sound my set off a headache.
  • Medications: Medicine is supposed to help people, not make then sick; however, medications often have side effects and headaches are often one of them. If the migraine occurs after starting a new medication, it is important to talk to the doctor who can determine if the medicine needs changed or if the migraines will subside.
  • Genes: People whose family has a history of migraines tend to be more susceptible to getting them than people who do not have a family history of migraines. Researchers are not sure why this is so but it has been shown to be a factor.

These are the most common triggers that have been found to cause migraine attacks; however, this does not mean that these are the only triggers. A person who has frequent migraines often learns what their triggers are early on so that they can watch for them and avoid them.

Who Gets Migraines

Just as there are triggers that cause migraines, there are people who tend to have them more often than others. Although there are an estimated 28 million people in the United States that suffer from migraines, women are the most frequent sufferers. Studies show that men have one-third the number of migraines that women do. The common age for migraines to appear is in the early twenties or thirties. In young females, the first migraine tends to appear after the onset of menses.

Researchers have also noted that there is a specific personality group that tends to have more migraines than others. These people are typically very critical, analytical, overly orderly, self-described perfectionists and very high strung. Each of these personality traits alone can cause stress which in turn can trigger a migraine; however, when combined into one personality, the chances of a migraine are increased.

This does not mean that men and older people cannot get migraines. This is simply the majority of sufferers.

Scientists and doctors continue to research migraines and their causes in an effort to get to the root of the cause of the headaches. This is the main step in finding a solution to the pain of migraines and allowing people to live pain free lives.