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Finding Your Migraine Triggers

June 01, 2018

More than 37 million Americans suffer from migraines. Though each person’s symptom severity can differ, a migraine is more than just a bad headache. Migraine headaches are a debilitating set of neurological symptoms that usually include severe throbbing and recurring pain on one side of the head.

Every migraine goes through several stages and can last from a few hours to several days. Along with severe head pain, they can bring about a variety of other symptoms such as irritability, sensitivity to light, temporary loss of sight, visual disturbances such as flashes of light or wavy vision, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, depression, and general fatigue.

What are the triggers?

Megan Mackenzie, DO, neurologist with the Dayton Center for Neurological Disorders, and chair of the neurology department at Grandview Medical Center, says the best way to prevent a migraine is to identify triggers and do your best to avoid them. Triggers are different for everyone, so the best way to identify yours is to keep a “headache diary” where you record date, time, duration, what you did or ate before the migraine set in, and any other relevant details.

Some common migraine triggers include:

  • Changes in routine: Travel, holidays, and even routine changes from the work week to the weekend can be migraine triggers.
  • Stress: Stress can be a strong trigger for migraines; however, many will find that they experience the migraine once they finally relax and the stress reduces.
  • Sleep: Both lack of sleep and too much sleep can affect migraines. Dr. Mackenzie notes that some people will get migraines if they sleep in on weekends. “It’s known as a let-down headache.”
  • Caffeine and diet: Excessive caffeine consumption, certain additives, alcohol, cheese, as well as lack of food and dehydration have all been tied to migraines. Many will crave something sweet, such as chocolate, before the onset of a migraine, leading them to believe that the chocolate caused the migraine. However, sometimes the food craving is simply a symptom of an oncoming migraine.
  • Hormonal changes in women: Migraines are more common in women than men, and they are closely linked to female hormones. Menopause is often the most difficult time for women who suffer from migraines.

What can you do?

Lifestyle modifications may be enough to prevent migraines, depending on your triggers. “If you’re having chronic headaches, two or three a month, and they’re severe enough to stay home from work, miss out on activity with family, or otherwise interrupt your life, you should see your doctor,” says Dr. Mackenzie.

Join Dr. Mackenzie for a session on July 29 at the Empower Your Soul: Healthy Women Conference to learn more about Managing Migraines.

Click here to register now.