A migraine headache is a problem experienced by anybody. It causes pain on the temple and stretching to the other parts of the head. It attacks the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the body's responses to pain. Sometimes, intense migraine causes nausea and vomiting. The sympathetic activity causes impaired oral medication because the stomach delays passing its contents to the small intestines thereby preventing medications to be absorbed.
Causes of migraine headaches are difficult to predict, however there are studies that point to its cause. Our skull is enveloped by an artery called a temporal artery, which lies just under the skin and outside the skull. This temporal artery is enlarged and stretched during a migraine attack causing the nerves that curl round the artery to release chemicals. The chemicals cause further enlargement of the artery while it is inflamed. This inflammation magnifies the pain.
Any factor that causes a migraine headache is called a migraine trigger. These triggers are difficult to identify even for those who are migraine sufferers. A few sufferers, however can identify some. These include the following:
- Sleep deprivation. Disturbances that cause several or many awakening at night resulting in poor quality sleep can trigger a migraine headache. However, too much sleep can also trigger migraine headaches and tension headaches. Migraine headaches may be reduced and have shortened duration by having improved sleep habits.
- Fasting. Fasting may be a possible cause of migraine headaches. It causes the release of hormones that are stress-related and lowering of blood sugar. Prolonged fasting is not advised to migraine sufferers.
- Bright lights. Bright lights and some visual stimuli like flashing lights, television, and sunlight can cause headaches in most migraine patients. But these migraine patients are said to have lower threshold of pain that is light-induced.
- Caffeine. Caffeine is found in products such as coffee, cola, tea, chocolates, and OTC analgesics. In low doses caffeine can increase energy and alertness; in high doses caffeine can cause anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and headaches. Pain relievers that are said to be caffeine-containing may cause rebound headaches. It has been reported that chocolates cause migraine headaches though no scientific study has yet proven the association of chocolate consumption to migraine headaches.
- Wine, tyramine, MSG, nitrites, and aspartame. Some migraine sufferers have found red wine to cause their headaches although it has been found to have a good effect on the heart. The checmical tyramine that is found in wine, beer, cheese, and dry sausage can trigger migraine headaches. When consumed on an empty stomach, in high doses, MSG or monosodium glutamate can cause sweating, facial flushing, and migraine headaches. This phenomenon is sometimes called Chinese restaurant syndrome. Chemicals found in bacon, ham, sausages, hot dogs, and frankfurters, which are called nitrites and nitrates, have been accounted to cause such headaches. A sweetener, aspartame, used to substitute sugar and is found snacks and diet drinks has been described to cause headaches.
- Female hormones. The decrease of levels of estrogen among women at the start of their monthly menstrual periods may cause migraine headaches.
Migraine headaches are more prominent among women than in men. This is because women are more sensitive to the factors that often trigger these attacks. Men do not usually find these triggers to be worth noticing and instead continue on their normal activities.