What Causes Migraine and Chronic Migraine?

What is migraine?

Migraine is a chronic neurological disorder that affects 39 million Americans.

It causes a number of symptoms, the most notable of which is intense headache discomfort. A migraine attack, on the other hand, is considerably more than just a nasty headache. The symptoms differ from person to person, however they might include:

  • intense headache pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • sensitivity to sounds
  • sensitivity to smells
  • sensitivity to light
  • changes in vision

Migraine attacks can be either episodic or persistent. Doctors describe migraine discomfort as episodic if you suffer it 14 days or fewer each month.

Doctors consider it chronic migraine if you suffer pain 15 days a month or more and other migraine symptoms on the majority of these days.


Migraine is a bit of an enigma. While the specific reason is unknown, researchers have discovered a few possible contributors, which include:

  • genetics
  • environmental factors
  • levels of serotonin in the body
  • electrical activity in the brain

Researchers are still investigating the possible origins of migraine.


Certain variables, according to experts, can set off a migraine attack. The greatest method to avoid migraine attacks is to avoid the things that cause them. These might differ from person to person, and most migraine sufferers have many triggers.

Foods and beverages are frequently included, including:

  • alcohol, especially red wine
  • cheese and other dairy products
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • cured meat
  • any meals with a pleasant smell
  • preservatives and sweeteners including aspartame, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and nitrates, which are often found in cured meats

Other typical causes are as follows:

  • Meal skipping. A migraine episode can be brought on by skipping meals or not eating enough of them.
  • An intensive workout session, especially if you haven’t been active in a while, may set off a migraine attack.
  • Even little dehydration might trigger a migraine attack in some people.
  • Stimulation of the senses. A migraine attack might be triggered by unusually bright lights, loud noises, or strong odours. Common triggers include flashlights, intense sunlight, perfume, paint, and cigarette smoke.
  • Hormonal shifts. Up to 75% of migraine sufferers indicate that their episodes occur around the time of their periods. Others have reported migraine attacks during pregnancy or menopause. Experts believe that variations in oestrogen and progesterone levels during these times might precipitate migraine attacks.
  • Hormone replacement therapy. Birth control and hormone replacement treatment, for example, can both induce or exacerbate migraine symptoms. However, in certain cases, these medications may genuinely help to lessen migraine symptoms.
  • Other medicines. Vasodilators, such as nitroglycerin, which is used to treat illnesses such as high blood pressure or heart failure, can cause migraines.
  • Stress may be a cause for over 70% of migraine sufferers. Emotional stress can be caused by expectations at work or at home, and physical stress, such as overexertion or sexual activity, can also provoke migraine symptoms.
  • Irregular sleeping patterns. Excessive or insufficient sleep might be triggers. If you don’t have a regular sleep pattern, you may get more migraines.
  • The weather shifts. Storms, extreme heat waves, and changes in barometric pressure can all set off migraine attacks.
  • It’s screen time. Many people have migraine episodes after spending a lot of time in front of a computer.

Risk factors

Migraines do not affect everyone who is exposed to triggers. The following variables might increase your chances of having the condition:

  • A first migraine episode can occur at any age, however most migraine sufferers experience their first attack around adolescence.
  • History of the family. If you have a close family member who suffers from migraine, you are at a higher risk. In fact, 90% of those who have the illness have a family history of it. If one of your parents suffers from migraines, your chances are roughly 50%. If both parents suffer migraines, the risk rises to 75%.
  • Males are more likely than females to suffer from migraine throughout childhood. Females are three times more likely to develop it after puberty. Women’s migraine risk rises until they reach the age of 40, when it begins to decline.

Treatment options

Migraine therapy is divided into two categories: acute and preventative.

During a migraine attack, a person receives urgent therapy to alleviate symptoms and prevent them from worsening. Over-the-counter pain medicines, prescription drugs, and gadgets are all options. Many of these gadgets give stimulation that alters the electrical transmission in the brain.

The goal of preventive therapy is to lessen the frequency, intensity, and length of migraine attacks before they occur. Medication and procedures, as well as lifestyle modifications and behavioural treatment, are all options.

Preventive therapy only works for roughly 40% of those who use it. When it works, it reduces the frequency of migraine attacks by at least 50%.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with a doctor if you are experiencing migraine symptoms. Once they have confirmed the diagnosis, you may collaborate to decide which triggers to avoid and which therapy choices to explore.

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