What Causes Migraines?
Migraine is a condition known to cause very severe headaches in its victims. Once you have a migraine you experience headaches that generally affect one side of your head. Migraines cause other several symptoms that can make it difficult to live with the condition. Some of these symptoms include, vision problems, nausea, vomiting, fever, dizziness and lack of speech.Often described as pounding or pulsating, in certain cases, the pain may get worse with physical activity. Migraines can start at any age, even in childhood or adolescence. The episodes are known to get less severe with time.
Migraine headaches can be experienced for as long as 72 hours. However, in case of chronic migraine, the symptoms can persist for over 15 days. The frequency of attacks varies from person to person. It is known to affect women more often when compared to men. Migraine is known to consist of two major types. These include migraine with aura and migraine without aura. Migraine with aura causes various symptoms before the headache starts while migraine without aura is not accompanied by any symptoms.An aura is usually seen as warning signs of an impending migraine. Characterized by symptoms such asdizziness, vision concerns like flickering lights, blind spots and sudden weakness, it can last from a few minutes to almost an hour. Migraine with aura is a less common form of migraine headache with migraine without aura accounting for almost 60-80% of migraines.
Migraine is a complicated condition where people lack a clear cause of the condition. However, there are a number of possible theories related to the cause of migraines.
- Disorders of the central nervous system- Scientists believe that in cases where a person has an underlying condition in their system, once it is triggered it causes migraines.
- Genes- The theory that examines migraines as a hereditary condition. The theory states that if one of your family members has had migraines then there is higher chance of you having the condition.
- Chemical abnormalities- This is a theory that looks at the brain chemicals. It states that if there are abnormalities in the brain-related chemicals, then it can cause migraines.
- Vascular complications- Vascular complications have been linked to migraines in some instances.
- Decreased magnesium levels- This is a mineral that is of great importance to nerve functions. Reduced levels of this mineral can lead to migraine.
Apart from scientific theories, studies have shown that there are specific factors that occur in different people that cause migraines. They have been referred to as triggers. These factors trigger migraine headaches in people. They can also vary from one person to another. However, the most common ones include:
Hormonal Changes- These cases are mostly seen in women. When there are changes in the level of hormones in the body, it can trigger migraines. Women going through their menstruation periods may have migraine headaches. This is a result of the fluctuations in their hormone levels.Pregnancy or menopause may also be a hormonal trigger.
Drinking- It does not happen to all but some people get migraines, but the intake of liquids like coffee and alcohol are known to induce migraines.
Sensory stimulation- It is a common case brought about by stimulation of sensory organs such as eyes, nose and ears. They may result from strong scents like paint and perfume. They can also be triggered by loud noises and bright light.
Foods- This is mostly related to foods that require high processing such as cheese and salami.Evenchocolate, avocados, bananas, citrus fruits like oranges, artificial sweeteners, food preservatives like monosodium glutamate (MSG) are known to trigger attacks.
Change in eating habits- The brain functions by adapting to the body's activities. When these activities are disrupted, the brain also reacts. Missing meals can also trigger migraines.
Physical stress- It may involve excess exercise.Illnesses such as a viral infection or a cold that strain the body can also result in a migraine.
Mental stress- When your brain is involved in too much strenuous activity, you may experience migraine headaches.Anxiety, depression, excitement or any form of emotional strain could be a trigger.
Changes in routine:Migraine attacks are often attributed to a change in routine. Both lack of sleep or oversleeping even if only for an hour extra, can trigger an attack. Also, napping through the day doesn’t make up for the lack of sleep. A consistent schedule is important.
Medications- There are a number of medications that trigger migraines. Some of these medications are hormonal medications, but others have been known to cause migraines as well.
Triggers differ from person to person; it is therefore imperative that one identifies the trigger that affects them so as to avoid frequent migraine attacks. It is not uncommon for one to have more than one migraine trigger. It is recommended that a diary be maintained recording the events thatled up to a migraine. Food, environment or a break in routine can be responsible for a headache. In case of severe attacks, it is vital that a doctor is consulted so as to deal with it in an effective manner.
Risk Factors for Migraines
- Family history- In most cases, people suffer from migraines as a result of family history. Up to 90% of migraine patients have a family member who has suffered from migraines.
- Gender- According to research, women are three times more likely of getting migraines when compared to men.
- Age- People 45 years of age and above have fewer chances of migraines when compared to young people.
The Bottom Line
There is no specific cause of migraines. It is a condition that is mostly caused by our daily activities and individual stresses.
Despite being one the most common ailments in the world, a lot of work still needs to be done on determining the exact cause of migraines. Hopefully with time, we should have an answer to theproblem. Meanwhile, it is crucial that we work towards making lifestyle changes that ensure lesser attacks and better living.