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The Most Common Controllable Migraine Triggers

Updated on April 12, 2012

Migraines - Types, Symptoms, Triggers, Treatments.

There are two types of migraine, the classic and the common. About fifteen percent of migraine suffers will have classic migraines. These are unusual in that the sufferer is warned of the onset of a migraine by the appearance of an aura. Appearing about ten to thirty minutes before actual pain strikes, the aura manifests itself with a combination of unusual sensations. These sensations may include any or all of the following; double or blurred vision, flashing or zigzagging colored lights, and numbness or tingling in the limbs. The common migraine is similar to the classic but is not preceded by an aura. Common migraines usually begin with one or more of the following symptoms, such as thirst, drowsiness, depression or irritability, a craving for sweets, and a feeling of great energy and enthusiasm.

A migraine, of any type, is not just another headache. A migraine may last from several hours to several days or longer. Migraines cause severe, debilitating pain as well as nausea and vomiting. While suffering from a genuine migraine, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a sufferer to function normally. Often the pain is only on one side of the head and may throb and pulsate. Even dim light may be intolerable and noise may seem deafening. Any physical activity often intensifies the pain. Some individuals suffer only the occasional migraine, but some may have as many as one each week, and possibly more. Migraines often, but not always run in families and are much more common in women than in men. Although children can suffer migraines, true migraines usually appear for the first time in young adulthood.

The exact cause of migraines is not totally understood but it seems certain that a change in blood flow in the brain is one of the key elements of a migraine. There is some indication that a malfunction in the nervous system causes migraines. This malfunction may be caused by an imbalances in brain chemicals. Research into causes, and possible cures, for migraines is ongoing.

Although the exact cause of migraines is unknown, we do know that some elements and conditions do trigger attacks. Some of these triggers are beyond our control, while other can be managed, and still others totally eliminated.

Triggers beyond our control include, changes in weather, season, barometric pressure and altitude. Unless you are willing to change the location in which you reside, these are triggers that you will just have to tolerate.

Triggers that can be managed include stress, some drugs, odors, (such as, perfumes, flowers, paints, varnishes etc.), sleep patterns, physical exertion, cigarette smoke, bright or pulsating artificial light, and sun glare. It is clear that changes in lifestyle and simple avoidance could eliminate some if not all of these triggers.

Triggers that you can avoid completely are food and food additives. These are many but the most common are; aged cheeses, chocolate, caffeine, alcohols, marinated and pickled foods, aged and processed meats, dairy products, and additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame.

Triggers are not the same for everyone. You may have few or many triggers. Before you can manage or eliminate your specific triggers, you must learn what they are. To do this you will have to keep a migraine diary. This will help you manage, if not eliminate, your migraines. It will also help your physician better prescribe for you, if medication is necessary, as it often is.

Your migraine diary must be thorough and specific. It must include what food you eat, and at what time, as well as your state of mind for that day, and any activities in which you take part. You must also include the exact time of any migraine attack. Even if you cannot totally eliminate a trigger, you may be able to lessen its effect. Since stress is a powerful trigger for migraines, try to manage this so it does not make other triggers worse.

Once you have a good idea of what your triggers are, it is up to you to eliminate or manage them. If you have done all you can, and are still suffering, it is imperative that you visit your physician for help, immediately. Come armed with your diary and an organized list of all your triggers. There are some excellent medications available that will help you. The medication prescribed will depend on your migraine pattern, as well as your general health, and other medications you may be taking.

There are two types of drugs that will help migraine sufferers; those that prevent migraines from occurring and those that will stop a migraine, that has already begun. Generally the drugs that prevent migraines are prescribed for those who cannot find relief from pain medication, and those who suffer migraines several times each month.

There are many additional options for migraine sufferers, instead of, or in addition to medication. Consult your physician to assist you in deciding what options may help.  Options include; botox, rest in a dark room, applications of ice to the affected area, relaxation techniques, yoga, acupuncture, biofeedback, massage, chiropractics and dietary supplements.

Never suffer in silence. Migraines may not be totally curable but they are definitely manageable. With help, your life can improve.

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    • billips profile image

      billips 5 years ago from Central Texas

      Nice to meet you sparkle - I knew there was a strong tendency to run in families, but skipping a generation and running light then heavy, now that is new to me - very interesting - thanks for reading and commenting Sparkle - B

    • Sparkle Chi profile image

      Cate 5 years ago from Chandler, AZ

      Migraines tend to run in families, but skip every other generation. They are a bug subject in my family as we alternate heavy to light migraines from one generation to the next!

    • billips profile image

      billips 6 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks for commenting Sheila - what really annoys me are the people who moan about their migraines when they have nothing more than a bad, or not so bad, headache - if these people saw someone suffering from a genuine migraine, then they would know what real pain looks like - good luck to you - B.

    • sheilanewton profile image

      sheilanewton 6 years ago from North Shields, UK

      Wish I'd read this when i was getting SOOOOO many migraines. It's such a helpful and sympathetic article - lots of good tips and hints too. Thanks. Voted up - useful and interesting.

    • jean2011 profile image

      jean2011 6 years ago from Canada

      I have a friend who suffers from very terrible migraines, and I always wonder about the cause of migraine headaches and how they can be prevented. Thank you for such an informative hub about migraine headaches. I have voted this hub useful. Thank you for sharing!

    • ThePracticalMommy profile image

      Marissa 6 years ago from United States

      This is a useful hub for migraine sufferers. I suffer from them myself and always know when the weather is going to make a sudden change based on the sudden onset of a migraine. It is not pleasant! I also have a whole list of triggers, including peanut butter, chocolate, caffeine and alcohol. It takes a lot of monitoring, but I have learned to deal with them.

    • ianbrad55 profile image

      ianbrad55 8 years ago

      interesting hub, i never knew that migraines could be brought on by changes in weather as well!

    • billips profile image

      billips 8 years ago from Central Texas

      I'm so sorry that you suffer migraines - I have two family members that do and so have seen their pain - many people have no idea how extreme that pain, and other symptoms, can be, as well as how debilitating - I hope you find some relief soon - B.

    • skeri profile image

      skeri 8 years ago from United Kingdom

      I suffer so much of migraine that sometimes i want to die!!! Good idea to write about it...Great article!