Behind the Forecast: How weather can trigger migraines

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Behind the Forecast: How weather can trigger migraines
Thunderstorms over Louisville, Kentucky. (Source: Duke Marsh)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Migraines are no fun; the pain can certainly disrupt and even ruin a good day. The weather may be a potential trigger for migraine.

A migraine trigger is a “factor that temporarily increases the chances that a person with migraine will experience a migraine attack,” according to the American Migraine Foundation. An individual can have a wide range of triggers. The weather may not trigger a migraine on its own, coupled with other issues it can certainly help kick-start the pain, experts say.

Science Behind the Forecast: How weather can trigger migraines (8/16)

A 2017 study found that the most common weather-related migraine triggers were hotter or significantly lower temperatures, humidity, and changes in barometric pressure.

A Japanese study found that 75% of people with migraines triggered by drops in barometric pressure caused by typhoons; only 20% of people with tension-like headaches had an attack in that scenario.

Sunshine can also be a trigger! An Austrian study found that sunshine for more than three hours a day increased the potential for a migraine.

  • Extreme heat or cold
  • High humidity
  • Dry air
  • Windy or stormy weather
  • Barometric pressure changes

Common symptoms of barometric pressure headaches and migraines are:

  • continual head pain that lasts between 4 hours and 3 days
  • sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells
  • nausea, abdominal pain, and vomiting
  • distorted vision
  • numbness in the face and neck
  • pressure or tightness anywhere in the face and neck region
  • mood or emotional changes, often depressive or anxious
  • dizziness or light-headedness
  • increased need to urinate
  • more frequent yawning
  • slurred speech or thick tongue
  • memory difficulties
  • aura or the appearance of a ring of light or energy around objects
  • difficulty concentrating and sleeping
  • craving for specific foods

So how can atmospheric pressure changes, like when storms and cold front move by, trigger migraines? Researchers say atmospheric pressure changes can cause a pressure difference between the outside of your body and your sinus cavities as well as the chambers within your inner ear. This difference can cause persistent pain that comes with migraines.

Increasing the pressure outside the body may cause blood vessels to dilate and abnormal blood flow to the brain, thus increasing migraine chances, according to Medical News Today.

Serotonin, a chemical in your brain, helps to regulate pain. Experts say that some weather changes may cause imbalances in chemicals like serotonin and trigger migraines. Some of the most likely suspects, in this case, are high humidity, atmospheric pressure fluctuations, and extreme heat.

Experts say that while changes in the weather may be triggers, they are more likely to provoke a migraine when they are dramatic.

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