Glossary On Causes of Migraine

Migraine is a vascular headache that is caused due to vasodilatation (engorgement of blood vessels) and abnormalities in the levels of certain chemicals in the brain. Chiefly, when the amounts of the chemicals dopamine and serotonin alter abnormally, the result is constriction and dilatation of the blood vessels leading to a painful sensation. The exact cause as to why this occurs is still in the research phase.

Migraines also tend to be hereditary in nature. Almost 80% of migraineurs have a positive family history of migraine. A person who has one parent suffering from migraine has a 50% chance of developing the same whereas someone whose both parents suffer from migraine has almost 75% chance of getting migraine.

A combination of the above two factors decide the course of migraine in most patients. Apart from this, there are many factors that can trigger the onset of an episode of migraine in a susceptible person. Some of the common triggers or causes of migraine have been discussed here:

  • Stress: Stress is one of the most common triggers of migraine. Physical stress, mental stress, emotions like anxiety, grief, worry, excitement, etc. can all trigger a headache in an individual who is prone to develop migraine. These can also intensify the severity of the pain in someone who is having an acute episode of headache.
  • Certain foods and beverages: Cheese, alcoholic drinks, monosodium glutamate (common ingredient of Chinese foods), foods containing gluten, caffeine withdrawal, chocolates, red wine, etc. are some of the common triggers of migraine.
  • Skipping meals, lack of sleep or changes in the sleeping pattern are some other common triggers especially attributed to modern day lifestyle.
  • Strong odors, perfumes, incense sticks, etc. can trigger an episode or worsen an existing attack of migraine headache
  • Menstrual periods are one of the very common triggers of a migraine attack in women. A large number of women experience worsening of their headaches either before, during or after their menstrual periods.
  • Change in weather
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Bright lights can trigger a severe headache in many patients

It may not be possible at first to detect the migraine triggers in every case. However, if patients are informed about the variety of things that can be a potential cause of their pain, they may be able to track and record what triggers the migraine in their case.