Migraines are a common neurological condition that causes severe, throbbing pain that can last a few hours or a few days. Identifying and avoiding common triggers can play a significant role in lessening the severity and frequency of your migraines.
Our Gables Neurology team, led by Dr. Andrew Lerman, is committed to providing top-level neurological care in a welcoming, patient-focused environment. We offer our Miami, Florida, communities the latest diagnostic testing and treatments for migraines, Parkinson’s, seizures, dementia, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions that affect your neurological and neuromuscular health.
Check these facts about identifying and avoiding common migraine triggers as part of your comprehensive care strategy.
Why are migraine triggers so important?
Migraines affect about 39 million adults in the United States, including Dr. Lerman, who has struggled with migraines since a very young age. This experience gives him a unique perspective on preventing these often-debilitating headaches whenever possible.
Although science doesn’t understand why some people experience migraines and others don’t, specialists have identified factors that can induce a migraine episode. You won’t be able to stop every headache, but if you can avoid these factors or triggers, you can significantly decrease the frequency of your migraines.
Understanding what’s triggering your migraine episodes also provides helpful information that Dr. Lerman considers when designing your comprehensive treatment strategy.
For instance, changes in the weather or swings in barometric pressure are common migraine triggers. If the weather is one of your triggers, you may benefit from medications that help prevent migraine episodes, because you can't avoid the weather.
Otherwise, if you can easily avoid a trigger, you may do better with an on-demand “rescue” medicine to stop breakthrough migraines.
Common migraine triggers
Migraine triggers vary, but along with weather changes, some of the most common are:
- Increased stress
- Sleep deprivation
- Skipping meals
- Certain foods, including aged cheese and salty or processed foods
- Alcohol, especially red wines
- Food additives such as aspartame or MSG
- Strong odors, including perfumes and air fresheners
- Bright or flashing lights
- Intense physical exertion
Estrogen fluctuations before or during menstrual periods, pregnancy, and menopause, can also trigger migraine headaches. Interestingly, while oral contraceptives may trigger migraines, many women experience decreased migraine frequency while taking these medications.
Ironically, taking medication for headache pain more than ten days a month can also trigger a migraine episode, often called a “rebound headache.”
How do you identify migraine triggers?
Identifying your migraine triggers takes patience, investigation, and journaling in a headache diary.
Use your phone, laptop, or a pencil and paper to record the timing and pattern of your migraines. Then, work backward from the onset to identify connections between your migraines, activities, environmental changes, or other potential triggers.
During your initial evaluation at Gables Neurology and on subsequent visits, Dr. Lerman discusses this in more detail and helps you identify and avoid migraine triggers. Most people have more than one trigger, and some triggers only induce migraines when combined with others, such as snacking on aged cheese while enjoying a glass of wine.
At Gables Neurology, migraine treatment starts with a thorough evaluation that includes a careful review of your symptoms, medical history, and diagnostic studies if necessary to rule out other problems. For instance, Dr. Lerman may recommend a sleep study to determine whether sleep patterns affect your migraine frequency.
Based on evaluation results, Dr. Lerman develops a personalized treatment strategy that may include oral medications to prevent migraines from developing or medicine to stop a migraine that’s already started. You may also benefit from Botox® injections to prevent migraines or an occipital nerve block to reduce pain.
For more information about migraines or our other services, schedule an evaluation at Gables Neurology by calling our office today.