What Causes Migraine Headaches?

What causes migraine headaches?

Researchers have spent years studying and trying to determine what causes migraine headaches but they have yet to declare any definite answers. Significant progress has been made and although medical experts have not yet clearly identified the primary causes, they have made advances to enable those that suffer from migraines to get some relief. This is good news for those that experience these headaches because if you have ever had a migraine you will know that the symptoms can be severe and debilitating. Unpleasant and painful symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, and sensitivity to light, smells and even sounds can be unbearable.They can also cause vision changes.

Some people that suffer from migraines may experience auras prior to or during the head pain. Some characteristics of auras include, unpleasant smells, stiffness in the neck and shoulders, blind spots and even confusion and perception of visual lines and flashing lights. These auras may serve as a trigger that a migraine is coming or they may be experienced alone.

A chemical imbalance or changes to the nerve pathways are thought to be part of the physical cause of the pain experienced during a migraine. Chemical changes to the brain including things like serotonin levels dropping are also contributors to head pain.

Almost 30 million people in the United States suffer from migraines and they are more likely to occur if there is a family history of them. Women are three times more likely than men to have migraines probably due to hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause.

If you are lucky, sporadic migraines might only affect you for a couple of days at a time.  However, if you get chronic migraine headaches, you are looking at upwards of two weeks to a month of dealing with this severe discomfort.  Even if you don’t suffer from migraines yourself, there is a pretty good chance that you know someone who does and as you are probably aware the symptoms can put your life on hold until they subside.

Evaluating some influencing factors behind what causes migraine headaches?

Although it is not totally clear as to the underlying reason why certain people get migraines while others do not, there are some common triggers that cause individuals to experience them.   Because migraine triggers are rather unique to each specific individual – what affects one person may not necessarily affect somebody else. It is advisable to keep a diary of your headaches noting foods eaten and other possible causes for your migraines so that you can determine some of your triggers.

The following are some of the most common triggers that cause migraine headaches.

  • The most common form of headache is a tension headache and if that wasn’t enough of a problem, having one can actually trigger a migraine for a double whammy of pain.
  • Skipping meals or fasting can cause migraines.
  • Insomnia, lack of proper sleep or a change in sleep patterns.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption.
  • Smoking or exposure to large amounts of secondhand smoke.
  • The menstrual cycle and some birth control pills cause hormones to fluctuate which could be a trigger.
  • Allergies or allergic reactions may also be a trigger.

There are a variety of foods and additives that are known as causes, such as:

Nuts, peanut butter, nitrates and nitrites found in processed meats, MSG, dairy products, fermented or pickled foods and even some fruits and vegetables like avocados or bananas.

Medications And Treatment Of Migraine Headaches

The best treatment for any ailment is to try and prevent it from happening. Keeping a diary and learning what triggers your attacks is a good prevention strategy and making lifestyle changes to fight known triggers is advisable. Avoid certain foods and stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. Try going to bed at regular times with no distractions (such as television) to try and regulate your patterns. Reduce stress by exercising moderately at least 3 times a week and by trying relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga.

Over the counter painkillers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen may help to relieve pain at the onset of a migraine as well as anti-emetics to fight nausea and vomiting.

Some of the most common and recommended herbs, vitamins and natural supplements such as Coenzyme Q10, magnesium, riboflavin and feverfew have been used and have proven effective  for some people in their battle with migraines.

A doctor can prescribe things like beta blockers to try and prevent recurring or chronic migraines. Sometimes seeing a chiropractor or trying acupuncture may reduce or even eliminate migraines, everybody is different and you may have to try a number of different preventative treatments to find out what works for you.

Headaches can be common but they can also be a sign of a more serious medical condition.

Seek emergency medical care right away,

  • If you experience sudden and severe pain.
  • Your headache is accompanied by fever or neck stiffness.
  • You get head pain after any trauma or accident.
  • You have trouble with vision, balance, speech or movement.
  • Any time you experience new symptoms with a headache.

Please leave questions, comments and ideas below. Thank You



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