Migraines are still quite a mysterious condition, even today. Research has indicated that they are caused by a combination of genetics and environmental factors, but predicting who will get migraines has proven difficult. The exact mechanism that causes the pain is also still a mystery. Many choose to manage their pain with medications, but this is not an effective long-term strategy and does nothing to prevent the onset of a migraine headache.
Sometimes migraines appear to result from physical changes in the brain stem, which affect the proper function of the trigeminal nerve. Other times there seems to be an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin. When some migraines occur, there is usually a dramatic drop in serotonin. In migraine sufferers, this seems to trigger an abnormal response from the trigeminal nerve, causing it to release a different chemical - neuropeptides. The neuropeptides aggravate the meninges, which is the outer covering of the brain. This irritation is what causes the moderate to severe headache pain associated with migraines, as well as other symptoms.
While the exact cause of migraines is still unknown, if you are prone to experiencing migraines there are a number of fairly predictable triggers that can result in the onset of a migraine. Some of these triggers are:
- hormonal changes, particularly in women
- consuming certain food and drinks
- some sensory stimuli, such as bright lights
- sleep interruptions
- physical exertion
- some medications
The triggers are not the same in all migraine sufferers. Sometimes following a trigger, there may also be a "warning sign" like blind spots and tingling sensations before the pain actually begins.