The most common triggers for a migraine

What are the symptoms of a migraine?

The most common signs and symptoms of a migraine attack include:

  • A headache that begins gradually and builds in intensity over time
  • Increased sensitivity to light or sound
  • Vomiting, nausea, or increased urination

If you have one or more of these symptoms during a migraine attack, call your doctor right away.  You may have a migraine. This is a neurological disease that needs treatment in its early stages in order to avoid complications.

Migraine symptoms can occur on one side of the head, be bilateral (on both sides), or move from one side to the other. The pain is typically throbbing and often described as an intense pulsing or pounding feeling.

Sensory warning signs before a migraine attack:

Migraine attacks can cause significant pain for hours to days and be so severe that all you can think about is finding a dark, quiet place to lie down until the pain goes away. Some people also experience sensory warning signs before a migraine attack such as:

  • Seeing flashing lights
  • Feeling unusually tired
  • Having difficulty concentrating or remembering things
  • Having neck pain or stiffness
  • Experiencing diarrhea or constipation.
  • People with migraine may also experience other neurologic symptoms such as:
  • Numbness or tingling of the face, arms, and legs (most common in children)
  • A drooping eyelid (known as hemiparesis)
  • Confusion, difficulty speaking, and difficulty understanding speech (due to aphasia)
  • Dizziness or feeling as if the floor is moving underneath you (known as vertigo).

Many people who have migraines with aura see flashing lights (scintillating scotoma), which can be very distressing. A scintillating scotoma is a visual disturbance that consists of shimmering or flashing lights, usually in the peripheral (edge) vision. The flickering lights appear on one side of the vision but may move across to both sides of your field of view.

Most people with scintillating scotoma will describe something like seeing lightning, bright flashes, sparks, or stars. Some even report a zigzag pattern.

Although the majority of people who have migraine with aura will see flashing lights, not everyone with scintillating scotoma has a history of migraine or headache. In addition to migraine, other conditions that can cause similar symptoms include transient ischemic attack (TIA), stroke, seizures, and a brain tumor.If you have a scintillating scotoma, it’s important to talk with your doctor about the symptoms and what they could mean. If you’re having migraine symptoms as well as visual disturbances, be sure to tell your doctor.

Migraine triggers:

Different triggers can cause different types of migraine attacks . Triggers vary from person to person, and migraine attacks can be affected by many different factors.

A trigger is anything that sets off a migraine attack such as certain foods, odors, drinks, or weather conditions. It can even be the change in seasons or that time of the month.

Triggers don’t cause migraines, but they can bring them on. Understanding what your triggers are and how to avoid them may help you get your migraines under control.

  • Common Migraine Triggers:
  • Emotional or physical stress
  • Tiredness or lack of sleep
  • Hormonal changes in women (periods, birth control pills, menopause)
  • Being around certain odors
  • Certain foods like aged cheese, nuts, and processed meats. Alcohol is also a common trigger, especially red wine.
  • Weather changes or barometric pressure (a drop in atmospheric pressure)
  • Loud noises or bright lights
  • Changes in sleep patterns include too much sleep or not enough sleep.

Medication overuse is another trigger. It can happen when you use painkillers, butalbital-containing drugs (a barbiturate), and sleeping pills to treat your migraines for longer than 10 days per month. Medication overuse may also be a problem if you take too many pain relievers during a migraine attack.

What are the most common triggers for a migraine?

Migraines are a common health problem that most people experience at some point in their lives. In fact, it is estimated that about 12% of the population will have a migraine attack each year! The most common triggers for a migraine are stress, lack of sleep or food, and hormonal changes. However, there are many other possible triggers as well such as allergies, sensitivity to smells and chemicals, alcohol consumption (especially red wine), smoking cigarettes, or marijuana use. Migraine attacks typically last from 4-72 hours if untreated and can be debilitating with headaches accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Fortunately, there are treatments available for migraines including medication such as triptans which work within 30 minutes to ease pain associated with migraines. Other therapies for migraines include biofeedback, acupuncture, and a procedure called a sphenopalatine ganglion block for treatment of migraines.

Migraine Triggers: What Causes Them?

What causes a migraine headache? One of the reasons that migraine headaches remain such a difficult condition to treat is that it’s not always clear what causes them.A migraine is a complex condition with many possible triggers. Everyone’s different, so what brings on your migraines may be slightly different than what might trigger the next person’s migraines.

What are some common migraine triggers? Here are some of the most common migraine triggers:

  • Stress: Stress can cause all sorts of health problems , including migraines. Since stress can bring on a number of different symptoms, it’s difficult to find an indicator that will let you know for certain if it’s causing your migraines or not. To prevent stress from triggering your migraines, try keeping a journal where you write down any intense feelings you’re having throughout the day. Stress: If you frequently get migraines at work or school, the first thing to investigate is stress. Migraine research shows that stress and emotional responses can trigger migraines.
  • Stress doesn’t cause a migraine, but it can make it worse and more frequent for some people (especially those who already have vascular instability).
  • Food Triggers : Identifying food triggers is an area of controversy among the medical community. Many people believe that foods can trigger migraines. However, there are no conclusive studies in this area to prove or disprove theories of specific food triggers for migraine symptoms in all individuals. Currently, certain foods are thought to be possible migraine or headache triggers. 
  • Food Some foods trigger migraines. And some people find that alcohol can cause them too. There isn’t any one food or drink that everyone with migraines has in common; it all depends on the person. 
  • These include: aged cheese, monosodium glutamate (MSG), caffeine, aspartame, chocolate, fermented or pickled foods and products containing the preservatives nitrates and nitrites.
  • Tobacco Cigarette smoking increases your risk of stroke , heart disease , lung cancer , cancer of the throat , mouth, and esophagus, and peripheral vascular disease . It also irritates the lining of your digestive system, which can lead to ulcers. Cigarette smoking is also one of the major risk factors for coronary heart disease (CHD).
  •  It may act by causing spasm in the coronary arteries or by forming blood clots that block these vessels. You might think that people who smoke would have less heart attacks, but it’s just the opposite. Quitting smoking reduces your risk of a heart attack by about 50 percent in the first year and to 25-50 percent five years after you quit. If you have a history of angina or even angina that is brought on with stress, quitting smoking can improve your condition.


There are a number of triggers for a migraine, but there is no one cause. Common triggers include being tired and having stress or going without food.  Other triggers include alcohol, smells, and weather changes. There are many things that you can do to help prevent migraines or reduce their severity when they occur. These include making lifestyle changes, eliminating possible food triggers, seeking medical care for any underlying conditions, staying hydrated throughout the day, and practicing relaxation techniques.

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