Neurologists currently believe that migraine is actually a chronic disease with intermittent headaches that vary in their degree of pain and disability. The specific causes of migraine headaches are not known. It is generally thought that many factors come together to trigger a migraine attack.
Factors that trigger migraine may be stress or food related, hormonal, or environmental, among others. If your genetic make-up puts you more at risk for migraine, exposure to multiple triggers might lead to a migraine headache.
Exposure to migraine triggers is believed to activate the cranial nerves. Studies have shown that when nerves in the brain are activated, they release neurotransmitters that cause dilation and inflammation of blood vessels. This interaction between neurotransmitters and the blood vessels may cause a neurochemical cascade which in turn causes migraine headaches.
Initially, it may be difficult to identify the causes of migraine headaches. To identify what triggers your migraine headaches, you should first scan your environment and lifestyle for possible triggers. Observe if you have been deprived of sleep, if you have been drinking alcohol or eating certain foods which you know are likely to cause a headache.
Keep a record of every migraine. Make a special notation in your appointment book or agenda. Record events, foods, thoughts and feelings that occur with a migraine episode in a headache diary. See if you notice a pattern. Be sure to record also what you thought, felt or did during and after an attack to better understand your coping responses to migraines.
Keeping track of your migraines is useful both before you see a physician and afterward. Your headache diary will aid your physician in making a proper diagnosis. The information you update in your migraine headache diary will help you identify the possible causes of migraine headaches and help both you and your doctor tailor your lifestyle to avoid frequent headaches.