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What causes migraine?

ANSWER

Doctors don't know for sure. The headache is actually just one symptom of an overall condition called migraine. Experts think it starts when brain activity that isn’t normal temporarily changes nerve signals across the brain. That touches off a release of chemicals that can lead to inflammation and swelling of blood vessels in the brain.  

Migraine has certain triggers, which are different for everyone. Some things that might set off your headache are:

  • Changes in the weather
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Strong smells
  • Stress 
  • Loud noises
  • Too little food
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Certain medicine

SOURCES:

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Migraines."

American Headache Society: "Migraine Treatments."

Cleveland Clinic: "Cluster Headaches."

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Headache: Hope Through Research."

Office on Women's Health: "Migraine Fact Sheet."

The Migraine Trust: "Cluster Headache," "Symptoms and Stages of Migraine."

IHS Classification ICHD-3 Beta.

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on November 12, 2017

SOURCES:

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Migraines."

American Headache Society: "Migraine Treatments."

Cleveland Clinic: "Cluster Headaches."

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: "Headache: Hope Through Research."

Office on Women's Health: "Migraine Fact Sheet."

The Migraine Trust: "Cluster Headache," "Symptoms and Stages of Migraine."

IHS Classification ICHD-3 Beta.

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on November 12, 2017

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What is the treatment for tension headaches?

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

    This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.