A migraine is a neurological condition characterized by attacks or episodes that typically include severe headaches, visual disturbances, and increased sensitivity to sensory stimulation, particularly bright light and loud sounds. There are several treatments available for migraines, but health care professionals often try to educate patients about migraine triggers, which can include allergies, food sensitivities, and environmental factors. Hormonal changes, sensory stimulation, and stress may also act as triggers. Although not all migraine episodes are avoidable, understanding their causes can go a long way in easing the pain of migraine sufferers.
Environmental migraine triggers can include changes in the weather and barometric pressure, as well as allergies brought on by seasonal pollen activity. A sufferer's indoor environment can also host numerous migraine triggers, such as bright lights, odors, or allergy-causing dust or mold. Migraines may also be triggered by certain lifestyle habits and changes. Some sufferers experience increased attacks while undergoing a change in their daily routine or sleep patterns. Migraines can also be triggered by staring at a computer monitor or television screen for long periods of time.
Foods and beverages may also act as migraine triggers. Common culprits include avocado, aged cheese, and red wine. Beer, chocolate, and foods containing gluten may also serve as triggers. Food additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, also known as Nutrasweet®, have also been named as possible migraine triggers. Although a positive correlation between some of these foods and food additives and migraines has not been substantiated, health care providers generally suggest that sufferers pay attention to what they eat. If any food seems to be a migraine trigger, it should be avoided.
Hormones can also be migraine triggers. People with migraines may report that the episodes began when they entered puberty. Some women have also noted that migraines may be more likely to happen right before or during menstruation. Interestingly, some women who frequently suffer migraines find that they cease during pregnancy, although other women might experience migraines for the first time while they are pregnant. The use of hormonal birth control can also play a part in triggering migraine.
As migraine triggers can be unique to individual sufferers, doctors often ask patients to keep a journal of their daily activities. After a while, both patient and doctor can begin to identify patterns in episodes, noting those behaviors, places, or foods that trigger migraines. In doing this, the patient can learn to help prevent a migraine attack before it even begins.