It is possible that migraines are caused by slight changes in the brain stem and interactions that are recurring with the trigeminal nerve. This nerve is a major pathway of pain to the brain. It is also suspected that brain chemicals being imbalanced can also cause a migraine.
During a migraine attack levels of the brain chemical serotonin reduce. This may trigger the nerve to release a substance known as neuropeptides, these will travel to the outer part of the brain and can cause a migraine headache.
There are many things that can potentially trigger migraine headache. One of these is changes in the level of hormones, in women changing estrogen levels can cause headaches and migraines often occur while women are on or near their period. Migraines can also occur more often during menopause or pregnancy. It is suspected that some hormone-based medications such as the contraceptive pill can trigger migraines. Although some women have noted that they can actually reduce the tendency to suffer a migraine
- Foods. Some migraines appear to be triggered by certain foods. Common offenders include alcohol, especially beer and red wine; aged cheeses; chocolate; aspartame; overuse of caffeine; monosodium glutamate — a key ingredient in some Asian foods; salty foods; and processed foods. Skipping meals or fasting also can trigger migraine attacks.
- Stress. Stress at work or home can instigate migraines.
- Sensory stimuli. Bright lights and sun glare can induce migraines, as can loud sounds. Unusual smells — including pleasant scents, such as perfume, and unpleasant odors, such as paint thinner and secondhandsmoke — can also trigger migraines.
- Changes in wake-sleep pattern. Either missing sleep or getting too much sleep may serve as a trigger for migraines in some individuals, as can jet lag.
Physical factors. Intense physical exertion, including sexual activity, may provoke migraines.
- Changes in the environment. A change of weather or barometric pressure can prompt a migraine.
- Medications. Certain medications can aggravate migraines, especially oral contraceptives and vasodilators, such as nitroglycerin.
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