The Lesser-Known Triggers of Debilitating Headaches Revealed by Leading Doctor
THE HEADACHE OF MIGRAINES
From furniture to emotional upset - a leading doctor is highlighting the lesser-known triggers of debilitating headaches which plagues millions of Brits.
A migraine is a neurological disorder characterised by recurrent, severe headaches and often accompanied by other symptoms including extreme fatigue, visual auras, mood disturbances and sickness. Attacks can have a severe impact on day-to-day life, and lead to sufferers having to stay bedridden in a darkened room for hours and sometimes days.
It is estimated that there are 190,000 migraine attacks experienced every day in England and six million people suffering from migraines in the UK.
During migraine awareness week (September 24-30), Dr Chun Tang medical director at Pall Mall is turning the spotlight towards the often-overlooked daily activities that could prompt an episode.
“Migraines can be debilitating and can significantly affect a person's quality of life,” said Dr Tang.
“While some common triggers for migraines include stress, hormonal changes like the menopause, certain foods, and changes in sleep patterns, there are also lesser-known triggers that can contribute to migraine attacks too.
“For example, most people are probably aware that caffeine can cause a migraine, however, abrupt caffeine withdrawal can also lead to headaches, especially in individuals who are used to consuming large amounts of caffeine,” explained Dr Tang.
Emotional factors like anxiety, excitement, or even relaxation could also spark an attack explains the leading medic.
“Stressful periods such as extreme anger or intense emotion can set off a migraine,” said Dr Tang.
“However, extreme periods of relaxation can also bring on an episode, this usually referred to as a “let-down” migraine.
“This is because the body's stress response may cause blood vessels to constrict during stress and then expand during relaxation, potentially triggering a migraine.”
Despite all the benefits of staying fit and active, migraine sufferers tend to be more at risk of severe headaches if they go to extremities.
“Intense physical activity or exercise, particularly if it's sudden and strenuous, start a migraine in some people,” said Dr Tang.
“This is often referred to as “exercise-induced migraine.”
Changes in sleep patterns and even cheeky weekend lie-ins can also disrupt the cerebral flow and cause an attack.
“While sleep disturbances are known triggers, paradoxically, abrupt changes in sleep patterns such as oversleeping on weekends can also provoke migraines in some individuals,” warned Dr Tang.
As we enter colder months, rapid changes in weather can also bring on migraines.
“Sudden changes in weather, particularly shifts in barometric pressure, can trigger migraines in some individuals,” explained Dr Tang.
“This is often attributed to changes in atmospheric oxygen levels which have a direct effect with sufferers, blood vessels in the brain constrict and then expand, causing intense throbbing pain, often on one side of the head.”
And while cheese, chocolate, red wine, and coffee, are principal of migraines, Dr Tang advises sufferers to keeping an eye on snacks, takeaways and foods loaded with artificial flavours.
“Beware of processed foods which can contain additives such as MSG as these enhancers can introduce an episode,” he added.
Even certain smells from perfume, to cleaning products to leather furniture can stir an attack for certain people.
“Strong odours are known triggers for some people with migraines,” said Dr Tang.
“These sensory stimuli can overstimulate the nervous system and lead to headaches, and can be anything from certain perfumes, nail polish, petrol fumes to cleaning products and leather furniture.”
Triggers can vary widely from person to person, added Dr Tang who says individuals with migraines often have multiple agitators that can interact with each other to precipitate an attack,” added Dr Tang.
“Keeping a migraine diary to track potential triggers and discussing your symptoms with a healthcare provider can be helpful in identifying and managing your specific migraine rousers.
“Treatment options for migraines can include lifestyle changes, medication, and other therapies tailored to an individual's needs.”
If you're experiencing migraines, you can schedule a GP appointment at Pall Mall either by telephone, in person, or via video, often with same-day or next-day availability. Our dedicated team is here to provide assistance and relief from your migraine symptoms.