A migraine headache may cause a severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head. It may also be accompanied by vomiting, nausea, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks may last for hours to days, and the pain can be so severe that it interferes with your daily life.
Some people have warning symptoms (aura) which occurs before or with the headache. An aura may include visual distortions, such as flashes of light or blind spots, or other symptoms, such as tingling on one side of the face or in a leg or arm and difficulty speaking.
Medications abound that may help prevent some migraines and reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. The right medicines, combined with natural remedies and lifestyle changes, might help to control your symptoms.
Migraines, which often begin at an early age, adolescence or early adulthood, may progress through four different stages: prodrome, aura, attack and post-drome. Not everyone who experiences a migraine attack will go through all stages.
Stage 1 - Predome
A few days prior to a migraine attack, you may notice minor changes that serve as warning signals, including:
Stage 2- Aura
Some people experience aura before a migraine attack and others during the attack. Auras are largely unexplained reversible symptoms of the nervous system. Most of the time they are visual but may also include other disturbances. Symptoms usually begin gradually and build up over several minutes and may last for 20 to 60 minutes.
Migraine aura may include:
Stage 3 - Attack
A typical migraine generally lasts from 4 to 72 hours if untreated. The frequency and severity of a migraine attack will vary from person to person. Attacks also very from person to person and may range from rare to several times per month.
During a migraine attack, you may experience:
Stage 4 - Post Dome
When your migraine attack is past, you may feel drained, confused and disorientated for up to a day. Some people report a “high” feeling. Any sudden movements may trigger a repeated attack so be careful. It's also a good idea to keep a journal so you can avoid various triggers in the future.
When to see a doctor
It may surprise you that most migraines are often undiagnosed and therefore untreated. If you frequently have signs or symptoms of migraine, keep a detailed record or journal of your attacks and how you treated them (including the name of all medication). Make an appointment as soon as possible with your doctor to discuss your headaches supported by the entries in your journal.
Even if you have seen your doctor before, it’s a good idea to schedule another visit if you notice anything new or your triggers or headache pattern changes. Its best to be safe than sorry.
TOP 10 MIGRAINE TRIGGERS
There are a wide variety of things that may trigger your migraine headaches. Below we will examine the top 10 most frequently reported migraine triggers.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, stress is responsible for triggering migraine attacks on almost 70% of people with migraine and is directly connected to events in their daily life at home or at work. In fact many studies have shown that there is a direct relation between stress and migraine attacks. In addition, worrying about the next attack adds to the stress level and further perpetuates the cycle.
Insider Tip: Start by keeping a migraine journal or migraine diary that lists the circumstances that surround your attacks including the date, time, weather conditions, temperature, medication etc. Solutions such as Biofeedback, relaxation therapy, exercise, meditation and maintaining a constant sleep and wake schedule may be very helpful in managing stress. Please note that these strategies will not eliminate all the stress from your life, but they can and will change your body’s physiological response to stress and therefore reduce the chances of your stress triggering a migraine attack.
2. CHANGES IN THE WEATHER
Strong winds such as hurricanes and storms, excessive heat and sudden changes in barometric pressure are common weather-related migraine triggers that can result in a migraine attack. High humidity and heat are other common triggers that may lead to dehydration, thereby complicating the problem.
Insider Tip: We have no control over weather conditions, so if the current conditions are not favorable for your migraine, its best to indoors where you have greater control over your environment.
3. CHANGES IN SLEEP PATTERN
Sleep allows the body to repair itself - including the brain. Irregular sleep patterns disrupt this vital body function and is responsible for triggering severe attacks for many people with migraine. According to the American migraine foundation, Nearly half of all migraine attacks occur between 4:00am & 9:00am, which itself could put you at risk for developing sleep disorder.
Insider Tip: Try to sleep at the same time every night and try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep. Do not watch TV, text, read or and listen to music while in bed, and avoid napping during the day
4. CHANGES IN HORMONE LEVELS
Studies by The Migraine Research Foundation found that women are three times more likely to have migraine attacks than men, and up to 75% of these women find that they experience attacks during their menstrual period. This is also called “menstrual migraine,” since it occurs only during a women’s period as a result of the change in the level of estrogen and progesterone in the body.
Insider Tip: You should start by changing your lifestyle and diet and record the results. In addition, there are some birth control medication that can stabilize hormone levels and prevent future migraine attacks.
5. CAFFEINE & ALCOHOL
Some persons have reported that their migraine symptoms are become worse after consuming caffeine or alcohol. On the other hand, others say that a cup of coffee can stop their migraine symptoms. Many persons report that red is the principal alcoholic migraine trigger, but studies have shown that other types of alcohol are just as likely to trigger an attack.
Insider Tip: Its best to limit or eliminate alcohol consumption, especially if your migraine journal shows that it is one of your main triggers. It’s also recommended that you take your acute medication immediately, if you experience signs of a migraine attack after drinking alcohol.
6. DIET & NUTRITION
There are many foods that are known to trigger a migraine attack, the most common among them are foods that contain histamine and MSG, cheese and other dairy products, chocolate, artificial sweeteners (e.g. aspartame), cured meats, caffeine and practically anything with a strong smell.
Insider Tip: Use your migraine journal to identify and avoid all food triggers as much as possible. Many people have also adopted a migraine diet that eliminates all foods and ingredients known to trigger a migraine. You may download a copy of our migraine nutrition guide below.
7. PROPER HYDRATION
Recent Studies have shown that approximately 1 in 3 persons with migraine say dehydration is a trigger, and for some, even the slightest hint of dehydration can be the cause of debilitating and prolonged headaches. Dehydration tend to affect the body on all levels and can cause dizziness, confusion, and may even lead to a medical emergency.
Insider Tip: Always carry a bottle of water and keep track of your daily fluid intake. Studies have shown that if you drink 2-3 liters or water daily you can reduce or stop a migraine attack.
8. LIGHT AND ITS EFFECTS
For many persons with migraine,natural light is a disaster. This condition is called Photophobia, and it’s the primary criteria used in diagnosing persons with migraine. Most bright lights (both natural and man-made), bulbs (especially fluorescent or flickering) trigger attacks. Because of this issue most persons with migraine find it difficult to spend time outside or be in an office environment.
Insider Tip: Wear sunglasses as much as possible when outdoors. When faced with artificial light, sit close to a window and avoid flickering lights or sources of glare. Since studies have shown that green-light is the only band of light that does not trigger an attack, it is recommended that you use this color lighting as much as possible.
9. MEDICATION ABUSE
If you take acute migraine medication prescribed by your doctor for more than 10 days in each month, it can in itself trigger more migraine attacks—a phenomenon known as Medication Overuse Headache (MOH).
Insider Tip: If you are experiencing MOH, you must first stop taking the medication and expel it out of your system before you can disrupt the cycle of pain. Your doctor will assist you to come off certain medications, such as opioids or any butalbital containing medications, safely.
10. SMELL & VARIOUS ODORS
Various odors can activate some nerve receptors in the nasal passages that may trigger a migraine attack or worsen an attack that has already started. This phenomenon is called Osmophobia (aversion to odors).
Insider Tip: Avoid strong food smells, perfumes, chemicals or gasoline. If you work in an office, don’t be fearful of telling your coworkers about your condition, and asking them to refrain from wearing perfumes or colognes, in order to protect yourself.
Everyone’s experience with migraine and its associated triggers is different. Use your migraine journal and all the information you have been capturing in it to speak to your doctor about your experiences, so that a suitable action plan can be implemented.
Download a copy of our 7 day migraine food guide here
Avoid food triggers with these easy to follow recipes - FREE!