How to manage chronic migraine: Understand the triggers

Migraines are severe headaches that can be debilitating. In most cases, migraines cause people to retreat to a dark room, a bed, and a quiet place. While a typical migraine lasts a few hours, it can take several weeks between subsequent attacks. An even more extreme form of migraine is chronic migraine, which lasts at least 15 days in a month, with at least 8 days of headache with migraine characteristics, for more than 3 months. About 2 percent of the world’s population is affected. Let’s learn how to deal with chronic migraines by understanding the likely triggers.

Many people feel that these attacks appear out of nowhere, but often there are signs before they begin. By studying these signs, one can spot patterns in your migraine symptoms and even learn how to effectively treat chronic migraine attacks. Everyone experiences migraines differently, but there are a few common triggers that affect most people with chronic migraines. Identifying your migraine triggers will help you avoid future migraine attacks and
manage effectively.

If you want to learn how to manage migraines, you must first make a decision to include important lifestyle changes. Follow a disciplined exercise plan, control your stress levels, stay hydrated, and identify what’s triggering your headaches. Keeping a migraine diary can be the first step in managing the attack. Logging the details of migraine attacks, sleeping patterns and eating habits, things that bother you, can prove helpful in diagnosis
and creating a preventive treatment. You should also avoid being ignorant and know the difference between a headache and a migraine.

migraine symptoms
Don’t always ignore headaches. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

There is no definite cause of migraines. But you can find some common triggers.

Common causes of chronic migraines

1. Stress can increase the risk of chronic migraines

An increase in physical or psychological stress can trigger migraines. A study shows that 50 to 80 percent of people who suffer from chronic migraines cite stress as a trigger for their migraine headaches. Some people may experience migraines as a post-event of stress.

2. Lack of sleep can lead to migraines

Inadequate or disturbed sleep patterns are one of the most common triggers for chronic migraine attacks. According to National Library of Medicine, 48
up to 75 percent of migraine sufferers state that lack of sleep is linked to the onset of their migraine. Insomnia has been identified time and time again as a trigger for headaches.

3. Hormones can trigger migraines

Migraine headaches are said to be three times more common in women than in men. Headache disorders even rank tenth among women, one notch below
Gynecological diseases, in a list of global causes of disability-adjusted life years (DALY) and young women first. This is due to fluctuations in a hormone called estrogen, which contributes to the development of chronic migraines in women.

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Also read: Do you suffer from migraines? 5 ways it affects your body and your life

Hormones can affect migraines
Hormonal imbalance is a major migraine trigger in women. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. Eating habits can trigger a migraine attack

There is a list of foods that are known to trigger migraine attacks. Some of the most common among them are chocolate, cheese and alcohol. Skipping meals can also be a reason for migraine attacks. Research consistently shows that fasting or skipping meals are associated with the onset of a migraine attack. However, it is unclear how fasting-induced migraine headaches work.

5. Beware of excessive caffeine consumption

Excessive caffeine consumption can trigger migraines. It is therefore always recommended to pay attention to the consumption of coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks.

6. Excessive exercise can also be a cause of chronic migraines

Intense exercise can trigger migraines. According to a study in the Journal of Headache and Pain, 38 percent of migraineurs experience exercise-induced migraines at some point. People also reported neck pain as an initial migraine symptom.

7. Lights can be the enemy for you

Bright, flickering, or fluorescent lights can trigger a migraine attack. For some migraine sufferers, natural light is also one of the enemies. Sunlight can trigger a migraine attack in people. Therefore, it is recommended to wear sunglasses or a hat when traveling on hot days.

Sunlight leads to migraines
Sunlight can cause migraines! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

8. Certain smells can lead to chronic migraines

An odor can trigger a migraine attack or make an existing one worse by activating certain nerve receptors in the nasal passages. Migraine sufferers often suffer from osmophobia (aversion to smells). During a migraine, smoking perfume or cigarettes or smelling food are usually perceived as bothersome odors.

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The last word

Chronic migraine is an under-recognized and under-treated condition. Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment by a specialized neurologist can lead to a significant improvement in quality of life. Determining your triggers can help identify the right course of treatment.

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