Causes of Migraines

Types of Migraines

Not all migraines are identical. In fact, there are several types of migraines, and these include:

  • Migraine Without Aura: Causes moderate to severe pulsating pain in the head. A migraine without aura typically occurs without warning and may result in blurred vision, fatigue, nausea and other physical symptoms.
  • Migraine with Aura: Begins with visual disturbances or other neurological symptoms that lead to a migraine attack. A migraine with aura sometimes causes muscle weakness, loss of appetite and increased sensitivity to light and sound, among other symptoms.
  • Migraine Without Headache: Causes vision problems and other symptoms commonly associated with a migraine with aura, but without head pain.
  • Hemiplegic Migraine: Causes temporary paralysis on one side of the body. A hemiplegic migraine is rare, and symptoms associated with it include vertigo and difficulty speaking.
  • Chronic Migraine: Refers to a migraine that occurs at least 15 days per month for a minimum period of three months. Chronic migraines occur with or without aura and make it tough to perform everyday activities.

For those who believe they are dealing with migraine headaches, it is crucial to meet with a doctor. That way, an individual can take the first steps to treat his or her migraine symptoms.

What Causes Migraine Headaches?

Migraine pain occurs in the brain but are commonly triggered by external or internal factors. Some of the more common migraine headache triggers include:

  • Allergies
  • Alcohol
  • Bright light
  • Dehydration
  • Emotional or physical stress
  • Fatigue
  • Hormonal changes
  • Too little or too much sleep
  • Loud sounds
  • Smoking or exposure to smoke
  • Blood sugar fluctuation (due to missing a meal)
  • Caffeine
  • Certain foods that contain nitrates or MSG, like aged cheese and smoked meat

There is still no exact mechanism proven to cause migraine headaches, and there are likely different underlying causes for different types of migraine sufferers. Most believe that there is a combination of factors, both outside and inside the brain, that trigger a cascade of events to cause migraine pain. This may be related to how the brain communicates with sensory nerves in the face and scalp.

Dr. Jonathan Cabin of The Migraine Institute is a board-certified head and neck surgeon with dual-subspecialty training in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. He works with individual migraine sufferers to help them put migraine headaches in the past, by identifying and eliminating sensory nerve triggers.

What Causes Chronic Migraines?

A chronic migraine lasts 15 or more days a month for a period of three months or longer. There are many reasons why chronic migraines may occur, and these include:

  • Nervous System Disorder: An individual who is dealing with an underlying nervous system disorder may be more susceptible to chronic migraines than others.
  • Chemical Imbalance: Proper brain function requires optimal chemical balance and clear nerve pathways. However, if an interruption occurs, an individual may experience chronic migraine symptoms.
  • Genetics: If a parent, sibling or other blood relative has experienced chronic migraines, an individual may be more prone to chronic migraines than others.
  • Vascular Issues: Any problems with the size, shape or blood flow in vessels to or inside the brain may result in chronic migraine symptoms.

Additionally, chronic migraines have been linked to various health conditions, including:

  • Brain tumors
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Infections
  • Stroke

A doctor generally performs a series of tests to analyze a patient’s migraine symptoms and provide an accurate chronic migraine diagnosis. At this time, a doctor also may administer other tests to determine if a patient is dealing with health conditions that contribute to his or her chronic migraine symptoms.

What to Expect Before a Migraine Headache

In many instances, migraine sufferers will experience:

  • Prodrome: Subtle physical and emotional symptoms, like muscle cramps, depression and anxiety, occurring 1-2 days before a migraine.
  • Aura: Occurs in the moments before a migraine attack, typically involving sensory alterations including changes in hearing, speech, touch and vision.

With The Migraine Institute, an individual can work with Dr. Cabin and explore a wide range of cutting-edge migraine relief treatments.

What are the Risk Factors for Migraines?

Common migraine risk factors include:

  • Age: Migraines may affect individuals of all ages, but initial migraine symptoms sometimes occur during adolescence. Also, migraines tend to peak in a person’s 30s, but they may become less intense in the years to follow.
  • Family History: If a blood relative previously experienced migraines, an individual’s risk of experiencing migraine symptoms may increase accordingly.
  • Gender: Boys may be more susceptible than girls to migraines during adolescence. However, women generally are more susceptible to migraines than men.
  • Hormonal Changes: Women may experience migraines just before or shortly after menstruation occurs. A woman’s migraine symptoms may change due to pregnancy or menopause as well.

A person who believes he or she is dealing with migraines should not wait to receive treatment. Instead, this individual should meet with a doctor who can analyze his or her symptoms. By receiving a migraine diagnosis, a patient can take the first step to alleviate migraine symptoms both now and in the future.

What Foods Can Trigger Migraine Headaches?

Some foods have been shown to trigger migraine pain, and these foods include:

  • Cheese: Contains high levels of tyramine, a natural compound that has been linked to migraine pain.
  • Chocolate: Contains beta-phenylethylamine, which may trigger headaches.
  • Processed Meats: Contain nitrates that cause blood vessels to swell and may lead to a migraine headache.
  • Salty Foods: Contain high levels of sodium, which can increase a person’s blood pressure and trigger a migraine attack.

Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages sometimes trigger migraine headaches, too. Beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages can affect brain chemicals and blood vessels, and ultimately, cause a migraine. Comparatively, coffee, tea and other caffeinated beverages may cause blood vessels to narrow, resulting in migraine pain.

For people who believe certain foods may trigger migraines, it often helps to keep a journal of food consumed on a daily basis. Over time, a person can use his or her journal entries to identify potential migraine triggers. This individual can also share his or her journal entries with a doctor, who can then offer personalized migraine treatment recommendations.

What Foods Help Relieve Migraine Pain?

Although caffeine is sometimes a migraine trigger, it may help some individuals combat their migraine symptoms. In certain instances, drinking a caffeinated beverage during a migraine attack may help a person alleviate his or her migraine pain.

Also, research indicates bland foods may help relieve migraine pain. These foods include pears, saltine crackers and white bread.

What Foods Help Prevent Migraines?

Maintaining a diet that includes one or more of the following foods may help an individual prevent migraines:

  • Orange, yellow and green vegetables
  • Rice
  • Cereals that do not contain nuts, dried fruits or aspartame
  • Natural sweeteners

Additionally, research shows salmon, red meat and other foods high in vitamin B-2 help reduce migraine frequency. Avoiding preservatives or artificial sweeteners or maintaining a vegan diet may also help an individual avoid migraine attacks.

If a person is considering a new diet to prevent migraine pain, it generally helps to meet with a doctor. That way, an individual can discuss his or her migraine concerns with a doctor and receive expert tips to treat migraine pain.

How to Treat a Migraine Headache

There are many treatment modalities for migraines, including lifestyle changes, alternative/complimentary treatments and, most commonly, medication.

At The Migraine Institute, we offer two cutting-edge treatments for migraine headaches:

  • Minimally Invasive Migraine Surgery: We provide minimally invasive surgery for migraines to reduce or remove faulty sensory nerve signals that can cause migraines.
  • Botox®: Our Botox® for migraine treatments have been shown to help migraine sufferers prevent this same nerve pain irritability that can trigger migraine symptoms.

Once qualifying for these treatments, Dr. Cabin designs an individualized treatment approach, which can include one or both of these treatments (depending on the specific patient).

Which Migraine Treatment Works Best?

There is no surefire solution to treat migraine pain. Instead, a patient may require a combination of treatments to address his or her migraine symptoms.

Generally, an individual who is dealing with migraine pain can consult with a doctor. At this time, a doctor may provide a migraine diagnosis, as well as offer medications and other treatments.

If a patient’s migraine symptoms linger, a neurological consultation may be required. By meeting with a neurologist, an individual can take additional steps to treat his or her migraine symptoms. This individual may also receive a chronic migraine diagnosis.

If a patient receives a chronic migraine diagnosis but finds that his or her migraine medications are ineffective or cause intolerable side effects, Dr. Cabin can help. Dr. Cabin works closely with chronic migraine patients to identify the underlying cause of migraine pain. Then, Dr. Cabin crafts a personalized chronic migraine treatment plan designed to deliver long-lasting pain relief.

Set Up a Migraine Consultation Today

Want to find out more about effective migraines treatment? Call us today at 310.461.0303 or fill out our online contact form to set up a consultation.

Find out if you are a candidate for migraine surgery.

Put an end to sitting inside while your friends and family are out enjoying life! Contact The Migraine Institute today to learn more about life-changing results migraine treatment can provide.

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