In a recent edition of Headache, the Journal of the American Headache Society, there was an article regarding the most common question that migraineurs (someone who has migraines) ask: “What causes migraine?”. Now, I try to touch upon this in the video series. But the answer is complex.
The problem is that little is known about migraines to be able to answer the question in a way that makes sense. After all, how do you explain something that causes head pain, shoulder pain, blurry vision, seeing lights, nausea, fatigue, depressed mood and numbness? That’s a lot of stuff that falls under the category of migraines. A study published in 2009 decided to ask a bunch of headache specialists for their explanations and give them to 100 patients to pick the best one.
So, what did they pick?
Here it is:
“You are genetically predisposed to migraine because of abnormal hyperexcitability of neurons in certain regions of the brain. We believe that this hyperexcitability is caused by, in part, mutations in channels on the surface of neurons that, when triggered, allow for the abnormal flow of sodium, calcium, and other brain chemicals in and out of the cell. The hyperexcitable trigeminal nerve cells then send out impulses to the blood vessels in the brain and release substances that cause inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels resulting in pain and throbbing.
There are many factors that can trigger these excitable cells such as alcohol, certain medications, missing, meals, sleep deprivation, bright lights, menstruation and stress. It is important to remember that these are triggers, not the cause. Migraine attacks can also occur spontaneously, without a trigger, even during sleep.
The parts of the brain involved in migraine account for the variety of different symptoms that people experience, such as headache pain, nausea, sensitivity to light and noise, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, visual changes, and even sometimes weakness and numbness. during an attack, the brain cannot control sensory information so that lights seem brighter, sounds seem louder, and the normal pulsation of blood vessels becomes painful.
Effective treatment involves eliminating triggers whenever possible, using medication to quickly decrease or eliminate the pain and other symptoms after an attack has started and, when attacks occur frequently, using a daily medication that reduces the hyperexcitability and prevents attacks from occurring.”
I know that is a mouthful! I try very hard to break this down in the videos in ways that make sense. If there is a part of this answer that you have any questions on, please post in the comment section and I will try my very best to answer it.