What Causes Migraine

What causes migraines?

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A migraine can strike at any time, and it’s more than a headache. If you have a headache, you’ll generally be able to continue with what you’re doing, whereas a migraine will probably stop you.

Common migraine symptoms

If you have a migraine, the symptoms can be completely debilitating and may include:

  • Throbbing or pulsating headache often on one side of the head
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Palpitations
  • Diarrhoea
  • Sweating
  • Tiredness
  • Aura – a sensory disturbance such as blind spots, flashing lights and zigzag patterns in front of the eyes, or numbness in the limbs.

Identify your migraine triggers

While some people might have a genetic tendency toward migraines – if one or both of their parents suffer – there also has to be a certain number of factors that will trigger an attack. Here are the most common causes of migraines:

  • Stress. All headaches are related to stress, but it’s the release of the stress as you allow yourself to relax that causes the pain of the headache, rather than the stress itself, for example at the weekend after a hectic week at work. Give lavender essential oil a go: dilute in a carrier oil and then massage into your temples for natural migraine relief.

  • Sleep disturbance. An irregular sleep pattern can often contribute to your chances of getting a migraine. Beware of weekend lie-ins, as they can disturb your regular sleep pattern and increase your migraine risk.

  • Hormones. Fluctuations in the female hormone oestrogen can affect your chances of getting a migraine. Menstrual migraines often occur on the two days either side of the first day of your period.

  • Dehydration and skipping meals. The longest fast is overnight, so it’s common to wake up with a migraine already started. If this happens to you, try having a small snack before going to bed. Always keep some water with you so you drink regularly.

  • Flashing or flickering lights. Light is one of the causes of migraines. This can trigger a reaction in neurons in the brain that cause migraine. Sufferers are more sensitive to blue and red light; flickering lights can trigger attacks.

  • Food. Some people claim that certain food and drink, such as chocolate, cheese and citrus fruits triggers their migraines. However, a migraine that is already on its way can lead to a craving for these energy-boosting foods, which are high in sugar and fat. In this case, keeping a food diary can be helpful.

Finding a migraine treatment

A shocking 60 per cent of migraine sufferers never consult their GP as they mistakenly think that nothing can be done to help them. However, there are numerous routes you can take if you suffer regular migraines. See your doctor so they can confirm the condition.

Keep a diary to identify your triggers. You may find a pattern emerges, and by making changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can reduce the severity and frequency of your attacks.

This article has been adapted from longer features appearing in Healthy, the Holland & Barrett magazine. Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.

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