Are triggers really causing your migraines?

February 7, 2013 7:06:51 AM PST
Migraine sufferers go to great lengths to avoid eating or doing anything that might trigger their head pain.

Now a new study sheds questions the role triggers play in migraine attacks.

Most migraines have triggers. They're wide-ranging and can have a big impact on how sufferers live their lives.

This particular study zeroed in on one type of headache called migraine with auras; symptoms include flashing lights or wavy lines.

But whether it's a migraine or a migraine with auras, the study showed people need to pay more attention to what is really triggering their migraines. It could improve their lifestyle, and make their lives a little easier. Suspected triggers aren't always to blame.

Those who suffer from migraines know them well, the triggers that set-off their pounding head pain.

"I'm very aware of the weather, not having enough sleep is also a trigger for me," said Adinah Benzion, a migraine sufferer.

Adinah Benzion keeps a diary to help her track what may be triggering her migraines with auras.

But now a study in "Neurology" online suggests triggers, may not be as strong as suffers think.

Dr. Randall Berliner says the study shows there isn't a 100% correlation between migraines with auras and what triggers them.

Still, many sufferers make lifestyle changes to avoid known triggers like chocolate, wine and strenuous exercise, often not knowing for sure if that's what sets off their searing pain.

"Take it with a grain of salt, keep a record of how often you're exposed to a trigger and see how often the migraine occurs after the trigger, it may be you don't need to avoid the trigger after all," said Dr. Berliner, of Lenox Hill Hospital.

The study points out for some; triggers may only occasionally bring on a migraine, the rest of the time the headache would probably happen anyway.

Dr. Berliner says sufferers need to make a judgment call about avoiding triggers.

"For example, if you happen to love wine, why go through avoiding wine the rest of your life if it only triggers a migraine 20 percent of the time, maybe you want to avoid it if you have a test the next day or an important meeting," Dr. Berliner said.

"Sometimes you need to weigh the pros and cons. Is it really this item that's causing the migraine to come on or maybe it isn't," Benzion said.

"It's a strong message and must look at issues of triggers much more carefully and that more studies are needed," Dr. Berliner said.

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