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Migraine Causes — What Causes Headaches

Even though millions of people suffer from migraines they are somewhat of a mystery. The truth is that the actual reason for migraines is not completely understood. For many years, a theory was that problems with veins (blood vessels) in the head caused migraines. This theory has been disproven recently.  Recently, scientists have discovered that migraines are, more likely rooted in a central nervous system problem and are more than just a blood vessel constriction issue.

Migraines are Complicated Headaches

Migraine Causes — What Causes HeadachesThe order and reactions of chemical and physiological events associated with the brain that lead to migraine headaches is still not very clear or well-understood. However, several things are known.

One thing that scientists do understand is that something causes or triggers a series of biochemical events that may cause inflammation and over stimulation of the trigeminal nerve, a main pathway that controls feeling of the face and head. This over stimulation may spread to other nerves located in the meninges—the protective membrane covering the brain.  This often leads to severe discomfort and migraine symptoms.

Migraine Triggers

Learning about migraines and their triggers and causes is an ongoing process. However, the following have been identified as suspects for important factors in causing migraine headaches:

  • Depleted serotonin levels may be partially or fully responsible for painful blood vessel constriction that triggers and/or causes migraines.
  • A magnesium deficiency may trigger migraines.  Magnesium is a mineral that is crucial for proper nerve function
  • Small molecules called Neuropeptides have been found to sometimes cause inflammation and activation of pain receptors
  • A release of nitric oxide may cause migraines.  Nitric Oxide is a chemical that helps with bold vessel dilation.
  • Hormonal shifts in women may trigger migraines, particularly estrogen fluctuations
  • Maxillary nerve inflammation may also trigger migraines though it is unclear what triggers this inflammation to being with.

Migraines are somewhat of a mystery. Although the details of migraines are still unknown and unclear, there are some circumstances known to make migraine headaches more likely to happen. Every patient’s triggers might be unique, but many triggers can be categorized as follows:

  • Fluctuations in emotional stress levels. More household or work stress might cause a headache.  Conversely, sudden reduced stress may have the exact same effect.
  • Particular foods and chemicals, such as:Migraine Causes — What Causes Headaches
    • any form of chocolate,
    • any kind of alcohol,
    • all tree nuts,
    • monosodium glutamate (MSG),
    • cheeses,
    • processed meats such as salami
    • high levels of caffeine,
    • aspartame
  • Skipping a meal leading to hunger or dehydration
  • Altering weather, including shifts in barometric pressure, temperature, or humidity.
  • Adjustments to sleep including both increased and decreased amounts of sleep.
  • Extreme lighting like exposure to direct sunlight or light coming from a movie screen.
  • Loud noises, like banging construction equipment.
  • Strong smells, such as too much cologne, perfume, or cleaning products.
  • Extreme physical exertion like any kind of exercise,  heavy lifting, or sexual activity.
  • Hormonal shifts, usually in women that can be in relation to a menstrual cycle, a pregnancy, contraceptive pills, or menopause.

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*The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the Editor. Results may vary from person to person and cannot be guaranteed.

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