Migraine Causes

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The causes of migraines remain elusive to medical researchers and neuroscientists, but information about how the brain reacts to the causes. In terms of treatments, doctors and specialists like Dr. Amr Hosny at the Advanced Headache Center — with eight locations in NYC and throughout Bergen County, NJ — work to reduce or eliminate your headache pain while teaching you how to avoid future attacks. Armed with this information, you can regain your quality of life and know when you need to treat your migraine. Call the nearest Advanced Headache Center to schedule an appointment.

What’s Causing My Migraine?

A migraine attack starts outside your brain as an external stimulus, but it’s the faulty nerve signals inside your brain that lead to a migraine. While definitive causes of migraines are still unclear, medical research offers helpful information on managing the pain and treating this neurological illness. Some known migraine causes include:

  • Nervous system disorders
  • Imbalances in brain chemistry
  • Genetics
  • Cerebral blood vessel problems
  • Other health conditions, such as tumors

You need an experienced doctor to carry out diagnostic tests to determine if your headaches are migraines. With offices in New York City and northern New Jersey at the Advanced Headache Center, Dr. Amr Hosny examines your medical and family history looking for migraine triggers. Then he can offer individualized migraine treatment based on his evaluation and diagnostics.

Migraine Causes

How Does Brain Activity Cause Migraines?

Migraines may occur inside the brain because of a faulty nerve signal. While medical researchers don’t know exactly why the problem with your neurological system arises, they’ve linked a higher risk of chronic migraines to those with existing nervous system disorders. If you have a sensitive nervous system, you’re more vulnerable to migraines.

Imbalances in brain chemistry and problems with cerebral blood vessels may also cause migraine symptoms. These brain conditions can lead to migraines through a process that involves:

  1. The easy stimulation of nerve cells in your brain may cause abnormal electrical activity.
  2. The electrical activity spreads across your brain.
  3. A temporary disturbance occurs, affecting multiple brain functions, such as speech, vision, sensations, and muscle coordination.
  4. The throbbing pain of a migraine attack occurs, stimulating the fifth cranial or trigeminal nerve.
  5. The disturbed cranial nerve causes painful inflammation in the cerebral blood vessels.
  6. Blood vessel inflammation causes migraine symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, throbbing pain, and sensitivity to light and sound.

How Can Genetics Cause Migraines?

Genetic defects in specific chromosomes can lead to rare migraines known as familial hemiplegic migraines (FHM), which come with their own symptoms. For example, many migraines, including FHM, trigger auras, which is a disturbance in visual acuity. Auras are neurological symptoms that occur hours before a migraine headache, like a warning alarm. Genetic causes of migraines include:

  • Gene changes that can predispose you to certain health conditions, such as migraines
  • Aura symptoms, such as flashes of light, blind spots, zigzag lines, numbness, speech problems, and muscle weakness
  • A family history of migraines, which is the case of familial hemiplegic migraines
  • Sporadic hemiplegic migraine, which means you’re the first person in your family with hemiplegic migraines

After your diagnosis of hemiplegic migraines, the team at the Advanced Headache Center conducts tests to identify the patterns of your migraine attacks. The goal is to determine if yours is a case of familial hemiplegic migraine or sporadic hemiplegic migraine. Treatment options depend on which type you have.

Are Health Conditions Causing My Migraines?

Some underlying health conditions increase the risk of migraines. These conditions often cause secondary headaches because the cause isn’t in your brain but is still inside your body. These causes of migraines may include:

  • A brain tumor
  • T traumatic brain injury
  • An infection, such as meningitis
  • A stroke
  • Epilepsy
  • High blood pressure
  • Hearing problems
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • A pre-term birth

Just because you have a migraine doesn’t mean you’re suffering from one of the above conditions. If you’ve tried home remedies for headaches or migraine medications for your recurrent headache without success, it’s time to see your doctor at the Advanced Headache Center nearest you.

What Triggers My Migraines?

Everyone who suffers from migraines doesn’t get triggered by the same external factors. But certain triggers affect more people. Possible triggers for your migraine episodes include:

  • Allergies
  • Physical triggers, such as fatigue, shift work, poor posture, jet lag, and strenuous exercises
  • Hunger pangs or dehydration that causes blood sugar fluctuations
  • Alcohol over-consumption
  • Environmental factors, such as weather changes and sensory stimuli, including bright lights, loud sounds, or strong smells
  • Emotional or physical stress
  • Overuse of medication
  • Hormonal changes
  • Sleep problems, either not enough or too much
  • Smoking or exposure to smoke
  • Caffeine products
  • Food triggers, such as chocolate, cheese, smoked meat, and some food additives
  • Some medications, including HRT, sleeping tablets, and combined contraceptive pills

At Dr. Hosny’s state-of-the-art headache center, you enjoy personalized attention by headache and pain relief specialists. Using a multimodal treatment approach, based on a careful review of your case, Dr. Hosny can achieve great results in migraine pain reduction while teaching you how to avoid future episodes. Contact the Advanced Headache Center to schedule a consultation to discover the causes of migraines in your case. It’s the first step toward improving the quality of your life through migraine relief.

Updated on Sep 12, 2023 by Dr. Amr Hosny (Headache Specialist) of Advanced Headache Center

Amr Hosny, MD, MBA, AQH

Dr. Hosny is an Ivy League Trained, UCNS-accredited, board-certified headache specialist who offers the latest preventive and abortive treatments to provide safe and effective head pain relief. As an active member of prominent organizations and professional societies that advance headache science, education, and management, such as the National Headache Foundation, Dr. Hosney specializes in diagnosing and treating a wide range of head pain disorders, including tension headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches, to name a few.

Dr. Hosny's reputation for enhancing headache care quality through the use of the most effective and technologically advanced treatment options for persistent primary and secondary chronic headaches has been acknowledged by Castle Connolly and Healthgrades, where he has received over 200 positive reviews. Dr. Hosny is also recognized as a distinguished New York City physician and headache specialist by New York Magazine.

More about Dr. Hosny
Advanced Headache Center 41 5th Avenue,
New York, NY 10003
(646) 763-2222