Your arms and legs feel tingly again. Your eyes start to blur, and you see spots and colored flashes. Now you feel lightheaded and smell strange odors.
You’ve been here enough to know what’s next. You’ve got a migraine.
You know how yours start, but have no idea why you get them. What makes you more likely than some other people to get these awful headaches?
And what exactly is a migraine? It’s a disabling disease that causes an extremely painful headache that is accompanied by nausea or vomiting, and sensitivity to lights and sounds.
The head pain that occurs with migraine is usually a severe, pounding headache that can last hours or even days. Migraine is much more than just a headache however. Other symptoms vary from person to person, but you may see spots, have blurred vision, or smell strange odors. You might be sensitive to light, and feel sick to your stomach, even vomit.
Why Do I Get Them?
Doctors aren’t totally sure what causes migraine headaches, but they think imbalances in certain brain chemicals may play a role. Your genes and other elements are also likely factors.
While researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint a cause, they know that several things increase your chances of having migraines, including:
Your genes. If someone in your family gets migraine headaches, you’re more likely to get them than someone without that family history.
Your gender. Women are about three times more likely to get them than men.
Hormonal changes. If you’re a woman and take birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, they can make your migraine symptoms worse. But some women have fewer migraine headaches when they take these medications.
What Triggers a Migraine?
If you’ve ever had a migraine, all you want to do is avoid the next one. And there are several things that do trigger this type of headache -- some that you can avoid, some you can’t:
Emotional stress. This is one of the most common migraine triggers. That’s because when you’re stressed, your brain releases chemicals that cause your “fight or flight” response. Anxiety, worry, and fear can create even more tension and make a migraine worse.
Certain foods. Salty, processed foods and aged cheeses like blue cheese are known triggers. And the artificial sweetener aspartame, and flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate, or MSG, may cause them, too.
Skipping meals. If you miss a meal, your blood sugar could drop, triggering a headache.
Sensory overload. Bright lights, loud sounds, and strong smells can bring on these headaches in some people.
Changes in weather. This is a big trigger. So is a change in the overall air pressure.
While you might not be able to prevent migraine triggers altogether, some simple things -- like regular, good-quality sleep, a healthy diet, exercise, and stress management may help you stop them before they start.