Migraines cause severe pain in our heads and are typically accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to lights, sounds, and smells. They cause pain for several hours or even days. But what exactly causes migraines? And what triggers should you be aware of?
While we know the various effects of migraine headaches, they are still somewhat of a mystery. But researchers and doctors have possible causes and theories.
Genetics tend to play a large role. If you have a family member who suffers from migraine headaches, it increases your risk of also experiencing them, which has led many researchers to believe an inherited gene can cause migraines.
Changes, imbalances and other problems in the brain also play a part. Changes in the brainstem and how it interacts with the trigeminal nerve, which is a primary pain pathway, may be to blame. There are also various types of brain chemicals and nerve pathways that are all highly active during a migraine headache. Any abnormalities or chemical imbalances, including serotonin, a chemical that helps regulate pain in your nervous system, are likely involved. Some also believe inconsistencies in the brain’s blood vessel system can lead to migraine headaches.
A life event, a change, an external stimulus, a physical act—all of these can trigger a migraine headache. While some people who regularly suffer from migraines are able to clearly identify common triggers, others can’t.
Common migraine triggers, in no specific order, include:
- Physical activity
- Certain drinks, foods and food additives
- Allergies and allergic reactions
- Sleep deficiency
- Skipping meals
- Smoking and exposure to smoke
- Jaw tension and teeth grinding
- Muscle tension
- Head injuries
- Sensitivity to bright and flickering lights
- Loud noises
- Strong, unusual smells
- Environmental changes
- Changes in daily routines
There’s also a connection with female hormones and weight. Approximately 12% of Americans, about 36 million people, suffer from migraine headaches, but more women than men experience migraines, which they can think their female hormones for. Women who have a history of migraine headaches tend to report headaches right before or during their menstrual cycles, while some women say their tendencies increase when they’re pregnant or going through menopause—all of which deal with changing estrogen levels. As for weight, children and teens who are overweight more frequently experience severe headaches and migraines than their skinnier counterparts.
Keep in mind that triggers aren’t always what cause migraines, and avoiding common triggers isn’t always going to prevent migraines from happening. But if you’re prone to getting migraines, suspect any and all factors, and then eliminate certain ones by keeping a migraine trigger journal.
One way you can help reduce the number of migraines you experience and their severity is wearing our migraine sunglasses to shield your eyes from light. One of the top migraine triggers is light sensitivity, and Axon Optics migraine glasses were fashioned to focus on light sensitivity.