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Migraine Headache Triggers

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Topic Overview

Triggers of migraine headaches are different for each person. Triggers include changes in daily routine, foods, hormones, medicines, lights, odors, or other things in the environment.

The most common migraine triggers are:1

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Understanding Headache -- Symptoms

If you feel a dull, steady pain that feels like a band tightening around your head, you may have a tension headache. If you feel throbbing that begins on one side and causes nausea or sound/light sensitivity, you may have a migraine. Visual disturbances, such as flickering points of light, may precede a migraine headache. If you feel a non-throbbing pain around one red, watery eye, with nasal congestion on that side of your face, you may have a cluster headache. If you feel a steady pain in the...

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  • Stress (either during a stressful time or right after stress subsides).
  • Menstrual cycle in women.
  • Changes in your routine, such as how much you exercise or how much you sleep.
  • Fasting or skipping meals.
  • Changes in the weather, heat, or high humidity.
  • Bright lights, glare, or reflected sunlight.
  • Foods, such as chocolate.
  • Alcohol—all alcohol, or one type of alcohol in particular, like beer or wine.
  • Odors such as perfume, paint, dust, and certain flowers.

Other migraine triggers include:

  • Strong emotions, such as depression or anxiety.
  • Pushing yourself too hard when you exercise.
  • Aspartame.
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Nitrates, which are found in cured meats such as hot dogs, bacon, and cold cuts.
  • Tyramines, which are found in pickled or marinated foods, aged cheeses, and yeast.
  • Smoking or being around someone who smokes.
  • Excessive caffeine or caffeine withdrawal.
  • Birth control pills and hormone therapy.
  • Medicines that expand (dilate) the blood vessels (vasodilators), such as nifedipine, and nitrates.
  • Overuse of headache pain medicines, leading to rebound headaches.
1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 10, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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