Health & Wellness

The 10 Most Common Migraine Triggers

Knowing what triggers a migraine is one of the best ways to prevent the onset. Here are some common migraine triggers to look out for, especially if you’re feeling vulnerable.
The 10 Most Common Migraine Triggers

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Amy Schlinger

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Amy Schlinger,   

Aug 18, 2020 • 4 min read

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You’re going about your everyday business when suddenly…flashes of light, blind spots, and loud noises! You know what’s coming next—you’re about to experience a migraine. If you get migraines you know just how intense and painful they can be. But what triggers them? Figuring out the answer to that question can save you a lot of agony and grief. Read on to learn about common migraine triggers and what you can do to avoid them.

What Are Migraines?

Migraines are a specific kind of headache, generally classified as severe throbbing or pulsing that usually begins on one side of the head. “They are accompanied by medical symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, light and sound sensitivity, and visual disturbances,” explains Nadya Swedan, MD, FAAPMR, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, physiatrist at Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York and Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, NY. “There are two types—those with an aura, which are also known as pre-headache sensations, like flashes of light or tingling of the face, and are warning signs that you’re going to experience a migraine; and those without aura.” Migraine pain can be severe enough to keep people out of activities, and they can even last for multiple days.

How Are Migraines Diagnosed?

While a brain MRI can sometimes show telltale signs for migraine sufferers, most migraines are diagnosed by a doctor or medical professional based on clinical symptoms and responses to medication, explains Dr. Swedan. “Migraines are differentiated from other headaches due to their accompanying symptoms and the severity of pain,” she says. “They can be genetic as well. If one or both of your parents get migraines, you are 50 to 75 percent likely to get them as well.”

What Are Common Migraine Triggers?

In order to prevent migraines, you have to know what causes them in the first place. “Headaches, in general, can be lessened and better avoided by managing stress, getting enough sleep, avoiding substances, and overmedicating,” says Dr. Swedan. “Migraines can be lessened by avoiding triggers, especially during the aura stage.” Migraine triggers can differ from person to person, and while the same thing may usually trigger a specific individual, that can also change suddenly as well. So it’s important to know what common triggers are so that you can try to avoid them if you experience even the slightest sign of a migraine onset. Here are the most common triggers to look out for:

  • Caffeine: This substance may help some individuals cure migraines, but it can also be the onset trigger for others. “This is because it changes the dilation of the blood vessels,” explains Dr. Swedan. 

  • Changes in weather: You might love the changing of seasons because it means fall foliage or spring blooms, but if you suffer from migraines, you could also dread it. 

  • Stress: Stress is never a good thing, but if you suffer from migraines, try to manage it as best as you can in order to prevent intense head pain.

  • Hormonal changes: Changes in estrogen levels, especially before or during the menstrual cycle, can be a trigger for many women, explains Swedan. “Pregnancy can trigger migraines but it can also reduce the frequency because of changes in estrogen, increased blood flow, and changes in neurochemicals,” she says.

  • Sensory stimuli: We’re talking bright lights, sun glare, loud noises, and more. All of these things can trigger a migraine, so be aware if you’re feeling vulnerable. Strong smells can initiate a migraine, too.

  • Alcohol: If you’re experiencing an aura, don’t go reaching for a glass of wine or beer to try to help ease the pain. Alcohol can actually be a trigger.

  • Food: Processed foods and food additives can set a migraine into action, explains Swedan. Avoid them as best as you can, or talk to your doctor to see if intermittent fasting can help. (Those with migraine attacks that are precipitated by dehydration or low glucose should avoid fasting.)

  • Medication: If you’re suffering from frequent migraines, it’s best to first check in with your doctor, and let them know any other medications you may be taking. Certain meds can influence the onset of a migraine.

  • Sleep: We all know how important sleep is, but did you know lack of sleep could also be causing your migraines? Be sure you’re getting enough shut-eye, so that you don’t experience any headaches later.

  • Physical activity: High-intensity exercise or a strenuous new workout routine may trigger migraines. Instead, try substituting with low-intensity exercises like jogging, swimming, dancing, cycling, or brisk walking.

Although it takes some effort and planning to identify and deal with migraine triggers, it's possible to reduce the number of attacks you experience. For more information on migraine triggers and how to manage them, visit the American Migraine Foundation. And if you’ve been prescribed a pain-relieving or preventative medication to support your migraine treatment, order it through Blink Health to get the lowest price and free shipping straight to your door.

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This article is not medical advice. It is intended for general informational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your physician or dial 911.

Blink Health is not insurance. The discount prescription drug provider is Blink Health Administration, LLC, 1407 Broadway, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10018, 1 (844) 265-6444, www.blinkhealth.com.

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