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What Causes a Migraine?


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Migraines are believed to be caused by changes in the chemicals of the brain. Serotonin is a chemical produced in the brain which affects good moods. During a migraine, serotonin levels decrease and make the blood vessels in your brain contract. This causes them to become narrow and can bring on migraine symptoms. Following this, the blood vessels dilate again which causes the headache.

Hormonal Triggers

Migraines affect 1 in 4 women and 1 in 12 men in the UK. Fluctuating levels of hormones are believed to be a large factor in migraines. Women are more likely to have an attack before they menstruate. This is due to oestrogen levels decreasing before a woman has her period.

Emotional Triggers

Stress, anxiety, tension, depression, shock and excitement are all emotions that can bring on migraines.

Physical Triggers

Tiredness, lack of sleep, poor posture, tension, low blood sugar, menopause, shift work and travelling for long periods of time are all physical factors believed to bring on migraines.

Dietary Triggers

Blood sugar levels tend to fall when you miss out on regular meals. Sugary snacks can often cause levels to shoot up suddenly. This unevenness is thought to trigger migraines. Lack of food, irregular eating, dehydration, alcohol, food additives, caffeine and certain foods such as chocolate and cheese are also known to trigger migraines.

Environmental Triggers

Bright lights, flickering screens, loud noise, strong smells, climate changes, smoke and stuffy atmospheres are also known to bring on migraines.

Medical Triggers

Sleeping tablets, the contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapies are also believed to trigger migraines.

If you suffer from constant migraines speak to your doctor about treatment options that are available to you.

Sources:

http://www.webmd.boots.com/depression/guide/serotonin-faqs, Accessed 4th July 2013

http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Migraine/Pages/Causes.aspx, Accessed 4th July 2013

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Published July 2013

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