6 Unexpected Reasons for Migraines You Might Not Know
6 Unexpected Reasons for Migraines You Might Not Know

6 Unexpected Reasons for Migraines You Might Not Know

Experts aren't sure what causes migraines, but they do know that this neurological illness is about more than just headaches. They also know that this chronic illness affects 39 million people in the United States, including adults and children, and that it is inherited. If you suffer from migraines, you may want to ask your parents if they have suffered from them too. 


Medical scientists aren't sure what triggers the series of events in the brain, but they do know that certain risk factors can make people more prone to migraines or make them worse.

1. Serotonin and other brain chemicals 

Serotonin levels are aberrant in migraine sufferers, but it's unclear what role this neurotransmitter plays in the disorder. It's possible that serotonin triggers the production of CGRP, which damages blood vessels and causes pain, or that it just aids in the activation of brain regions prior to an attack. Another neurotransmitter involved in migraines is glutamate. Auras are caused by a problem managing glutamate, which causes it to build up and activate the occipital cortex, the brain's visual processing region.

2. Obesity 

A high BMI may not increase your risk of getting migraines, but it may make them worse. According to researchers at Brown University in Providence, RI, 20% of very obese patients (and 13% of obese patients) experienced more migraines than those with a normal BMI.


When people migrate from episodic migraines to chronic migraines, being overweight is also a risk factor. The link could be due to inflammation: being obese promotes inflammation in the body, which could be exacerbating the inflammatory response when you have a migraine, resulting in more severe and frequent attacks. It turns out that obesity may only be a risk factor for women under the age of 55, according to another study.

3. Structural brain changes 

Women with more frequent migraine attacks had thicker brain areas than women without the illness, and these areas are likewise thicker when compared to male migraineurs. Pain and sensory information, such as nausea, are processed by these regions, which include the insula and posterior insular cortices. But it's difficult to say whether the anatomical changes predispose women to migraines or if the areas thickened because women had migraines and their brains reacted (the more migraines with nausea you have, the thicker the area becomes). Experts are still undecided.

4. Hormones 

Women are three times as likely than males to suffer from migraines. They also experience more migraines than men, which stay longer and are more profoundly unpleasant. (Yes, it's completely unfair.) The problem is estrogen; studies show that while both boys and girls experience migraines at the same rate during childhood, this alters after puberty arrives.


So, what exactly is the connection between estrogen and migraines? Because many women have migraines a few days before and up to three days after their period starts, when estrogen levels are at their lowest, researchers know that rapid decreases in the hormone might trigger attacks.


According to Spanish researchers, those rapid dips in estrogen may be harming the trigeminal nerve, the major nerve that transmits feelings from the face to the brain, making it more vulnerable to migraine triggers. They could also be influencing the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters.


Another indication that estrogen is important: When you're pregnant, your migraines are more likely to go away: According to the Migraine Research Foundation, you don't get them as often, they're less debilitating, or they might even go away for approximately 75% of women. When you're breastfeeding and have gone through menopause, the situation is similar. The link: These are all periods in which your estrogen levels are generally constant (or, in the case of menopause).

5. Poor quality sleep 

People who don't get enough sleep are more prone to acquire migraines, and migraine sufferers are up to eight times more likely to develop insomnia or sleep apnea. According to one study, half of chronic migraine sufferers and a third of episodic migraine sufferers have sleep apnea.


Sleeping problems, such as inability to fall asleep or waking up too early or too often at night, are other typical complaints, as are sleep cycles that are disrupted (getting too little one night, too much the next). All of this can increase the frequency of headaches you have (the worse your sleep, the more migraines you'll have), as well as the severity of the pain.


One reason why getting too little sleep can cause neurological problems is that during deep dreamless sleep, the fluid in your brain and spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid) essentially washes away the toxic waste in your brain, cleaning it out, according to Boston researchers.

6. Genes 


Migraines run in families, with 80 percent to 90 percent of those who suffer from them having a first-degree relative (typically a parent) or someone else in their family who has suffered from them. These genes may play a role in the dilation of blood vessels in the brain. Other genes control your glutamate and serotonin levels, which are substances that convey messages between brain cells. You may be at a higher risk if yours permits for aberrant production.