Migraine Triggers: What Causes A Migraine?

For millions of people who get regular migraines, pain and discomfort in an unfortunately regular occurrence. Migraines are a type of headache, but they differ in many ways. Migraines start with vasodilation, which is the enlargement of the blood vessels in the brain. This causes, “the release of chemicals from nerve fibers that coil around the large arteries of the brain.” This physical effect cannot explain all the extreme symptoms and scientists think it’s a more complex process.

There are known triggers of migraines. 75% of migraine sufferers are women, and it affects of 30 million Americans each year. If you regularly are afflicted by migraines, a good idea would be to try and avoid migraine triggers.

We have listed 15 known migraine triggers, but there are many more out there.

15. Perfume

Certain scents can cause an instant migraine in some people. The medical cause is uncertain, but the symptoms are very real with those affected by it. Certain scents can be worse than others, with perfume often triggering migraines.

14. Alcohol

Alcohol can make you dehydrated, which is part of the reason you get a hangover after a long night partying. Some people are also sensitive to the nitrates in wines too. If you go drinking, be sure to drink a lot of water in between glasses.

13. Eye Strain

After a long day, you may experience eye pain and a resulting migraine. This is caused by straining your eyes to view papers, reports, books, and your computer screen. Wearing contacts or glasses can exacerbate the issue.

12. Food Allergies

If you  experience regular migraines, the cause might be in what you eat. Food sensitivities or allergies can cause unpleasant symptoms. Common allergies that cause migraines are caffeine, chocolate, dairy, and old cheese. Make a food diary and find the foods you’re sensitive to.

11. Incorrect Glasses Prescription

If you’re experiencing eye strain, the cause could be an incorrect prescription. Even a small change in your eyes could spur a sore head. If your vision is blurry or too sharp, visit your optometrist for a medical opinion.

10. Menstruation 

Changing hormones in women can cause very painful migraines. These can be different than regular migraines. They tend to be stronger and harder to get rid of. The best way to prevent these is to map your cycle and take preventative pain medication.

9. Weather

Changing barometric pressure can cause a migraine. It’s not just the rain that does it- it’s any extreme change. This can cause unfortunate pain when it’s a beautiful day after a string of rainy ones. The only way to prevent this is to take preventative medication at the first sign of a migraine.

8. Stress

Stress and anxiety are a big cause of migraines. If you find yourself stressed at a certain cause, such as a weekly work meeting, try taking medication before you’re put into that situation. Another good option is stress releasing activities, like daily meditation.

7. Seasonal Allergies

If you’re a sufferer of seasonal allergies, you know how miserable it can be. You get all the unfortunate symptoms of a winter cold, but in the nicest days of the year. They can also cause massive migraines if untreated. Thankfully there is a wide range of over the counter allergy medication.

6. Depression

The symptom of a migraine can have deeper roots. Depression can cause a person to experience chronic migraines. If you think you or a loved one is depressed, the best thing you can do is seek professional help. There are a wide range of medications that can help ease the symptoms of depression.

5. Sugar and Sugar Alternatives

Low blood sugar can cause massive migraines. They can be eased by eating sugary foods- try fruit over candy. High blood sugar can also cause migraines. If you’re getting migraines from high or low blood sugar, talk to your doctor about being tested for diabetes. Some sugar alternatives can cause migraines, so “low calorie” foods might be the culprit.

4. Cigarette Smoke

Cigarette smoke can cause an instant migraine. The best thing to do is avoid being around smokers. Some smokers don’t understand that the smoke can make people ill. If you’re in a situation where you cannot leave the area, let them know how it’s making you sick.

3. Dieting

Starting in on a new diet can cause migraines. Changing your diet quickly can cause blood sugar and vitamin fluctuations. The best way to prevent this is to drink a lot of water and take a good multivitamin while dieting. The unpleasant symptoms should go away after a few weeks.

2. Bright Lights

Bright lights and certain kinds of lights can be associated with migraines. Light does not cause migraines, but they can exacerbate the pain. Migraines can cause a person to become photophobic, which means they are more sensitive to light. This is a unique feature of migraines.

1. Disturbed Sleep

Improper sleep can be a leading cause of migraines. We’re so busy with our lives that it’s a lucky night if you actually get 8 hours of sleep. Try to put away electronics when in bed. Make your bedroom a sleeping sanctuary. If you still have trouble sleeping, there are natural remedies like melatonin. Extreme sleeping disorders can be helped with prescription medication..


Catherine Roberts

Catherine is our go-to writer for women’s health news, diet trends and more. She’s dedicated to providing Activebeat readers with the information they need to maintain a healthy lifestyle every day.