Important causes of chronic migraine headaches

Credit: Unsplash+

Migraines are more than just headaches. They are an intense and often debilitating type of headache that can include nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and even changes in vision.

Chronic migraines, defined as having these headaches on 15 or more days per month, affect millions of people worldwide.

Understanding the causes of chronic migraines can help sufferers manage their condition better. This review explains current research on the causes of chronic migraines in a way that is easy to understand.

The causes of chronic migraines are complex and not completely understood, but they are believed to involve a combination of genetic, environmental, and neurological factors.

Genetic Factors: There is strong evidence that migraines have a genetic component. If a close family member has migraines, you are much more likely to have them too.

Researchers have identified several genes that affect migraine susceptibility, particularly those that influence the regulation of chemicals in the brain. These genetic factors can make individuals more sensitive to the environmental triggers that provoke migraine episodes.

Neurological Factors: Migraines are linked to changes in the brainstem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway. Neurotransmitters, chemicals that communicate information throughout the brain and body, play key roles in the development of migraines.

Serotonin, in particular, drops during migraines. This drop triggers the trigeminal nerve to release neuropeptides, which travel to the brain’s outer covering (meninges) and cause pain and inflammation.

Environmental Triggers: Various environmental factors can trigger migraines in susceptible individuals. These include stress, changes in weather or barometric pressure, bright or flickering lights, strong smells, and changes in sleep patterns.

Dietary triggers such as caffeine, alcohol (especially red wine), aged cheeses, processed foods, and foods containing MSG and nitrates are also common.

Hormonal Changes: Hormones play a significant role, especially in women. Many women report migraines tied to their menstrual cycle, due to fluctuations in estrogen levels.

The use of hormonal contraceptives and hormone replacement therapies can also impact the frequency and severity of migraines.

Lifestyle Factors: Lifestyle can influence the onset of chronic migraines. Irregular sleep, poor diet, physical inactivity, and dehydration are all potential triggers. Managing these factors can help reduce the number of migraine episodes for many sufferers.

Medication Overuse: Ironically, the overuse of medication to treat migraines can lead to an increase in headaches, a phenomenon known as medication overuse headache (MOH).

This can make migraines more frequent and severe, creating a vicious cycle where more medication leads to more headaches.

While there is no cure for chronic migraines, understanding and managing these causes can significantly reduce their impact on daily life. Treatments often involve a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, and alternative therapies.

Preventive medications aim to reduce the frequency, severity, and length of migraines and improve the effectiveness of symptom-relieving medicines used during migraine attacks.

Researchers continue to explore the exact mechanisms behind migraines and develop more effective treatments. Each new discovery brings hope to those affected by this challenging condition.

Understanding triggers and underlying causes is key to managing chronic migraines and improving quality of life for sufferers.

If you care about pain, please read studies about why long COVID can cause pain, and common native American plant may help reduce diarrhea and pain.

For more information about pain, please see recent studies about why people with red hair respond differently to pain than others, and results showing this drug may relieve painful ‘long covid’ symptoms.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.