Weather Change Can Bring on Migraine

But Headache Sufferers Don't Know Which Changes Affect Them

From the WebMD Archives

June 10, 2004 -- Weather forecast: cloudy, with chance of migraine.

You won't likely see that forecast in your local weather report. But a new study shows that changes in the weather mean migraine headaches for some people. And it may affect half of all migraine sufferers.

The report comes from Marcelo E. Bigal, MD, PhD, director of research at the New England Center for Headache in Stamford, Conn., and assistant professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

Bigal and colleagues had 77 migraine patients keep detailed headache diaries for up to two years. Using National Weather Service data, they checked on the kinds of weather linked to migraine attacks.

An impressive 51% of the patients had weather-related migraines. However, 62% of the patients thought their headaches were linked to the weather. And few of the patients predicted the kind of weather linked to their migraines.

That's because it wasn't so much the weather itself as a change in weather that brought on migraines.

"The one constant in weather-triggered migraines is change," Bigal says in a news release. "We're realizing more and more that change -- or fluctuation -- is a major factor in migraine triggers, whether it's change in sleep patterns, estrogen levels, or weather."

Different kinds of weather change affected different patients:

  • 34% were sensitive to a change in temperature or humidity.
  • 14% were sensitive to a changing weather pattern.
  • 13% were sensitive to extremes of and/or a change in barometric pressure.
  • 10% were sensitive to more than one type of weather change.

What's going on?

"The brains of migraine sufferers are extremely sensitive, and stimulation that has no effect on most people can trigger migraines in those prone to them," Bigal says.

Show Sources

SOURCE: Okumura, A. The New England Journal of Medicine; July 22, 2004; vol 351: pp 403-404.

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