Barometric Pressure and Other Migraine Triggers

An unexpected migraine can stop your day in its tracks. Many Americans experience migraines. The American Migraine Foundation (AMF) estimates that at least 39 million Americans live with migraines, although, because those with migraines often self-medicate and do not get an official diagnosis, that number is probably much higher. Identifying migraine triggers can help chronic migrainers reduce the number of migraines they experience and improve their quality of life or get back to the things they love.

One common migraine trigger is a change in barometric pressure. Barometric pressure is the measure of air pressure in Earth’s atmosphere. Barometric pressure changes due to everyday factors like wind patterns, air temperatures, and even the rotation of the earth. Elevation can also affect barometric pressure, which is why those in an airplane might experience a change in barometric pressure. While there isn’t sufficient data to confirm that changes in barometric pressure trigger migraines, several studies have found correlations between barometric pressure and migraines. Some researchers found that drops in barometric pressure coincided with an increase in headaches from patient diaries while others observed an increase in emergency room visits for headaches during a drop in barometric pressure.

Besides barometric pressure changes, there are many other common triggers for migraines. Researchers noticed an increase in reported headaches from those in arctic zones, where the sun stays high in the sky much longer than regions nearer to the equator. In Hampton Roads, high temperatures and increased humidity are two common triggers for migrainers. Other strong weather systems can trigger a migraine as well. For those with weather-related migraine triggers, try using a weather app to anticipate fluctuations in barometric pressure or other major weather events.

Migrainers have an increased sensitivity, which triggers hyperexcitability. Hyperexcitability can cause chemical changes in the brain, which is what triggers headaches. Migrainers aren’t just sensitive to weather changes. Learning which stimuli are responsible for triggering your migraines is the first step towards proactively preventing future migraine attacks.

When identifying your migraine triggers, first consider these other common triggers:

• Light/Sunlight
• Skipping Meals or Food Deprivation
• Stress
• Sleep Deprivation
• Too Much Sleep
• Caffeine
• Alcohol
• Certain Foods (Nitrates found in cured Meats, Cheeses, MSG, etc.)

“Headaches are a major determinant in a person’s quality of life. So, the more headaches you have the worse your quality of life. Trigger avoidance is one way to manage headaches,” said fellowship trained, board certified neurologist, Maria Guina, MD of TPMG Neurology in Williamsburg. If your migraines are triggered by something other than the list above, your physician may recommend keeping a migraine diary or calendar which will track when you have migraines and under what conditions. This can help you identify your triggers and avoid them.

Everyone’s response to migraine triggers is different. Talk with a TPMG neurologist today about your triggers to develop the best course of treatment for your migraines.

Dr. Maria Guina

About Maria Guina, MD

Maria Guina MD, is a fellowship trained, board certified neurologist who treats all neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, Parkinson’s disease (PD), multiple sclerosis (MS), seizures, epilepsies, stroke, migraines and other types of headaches, among other neurological disorders. Her special interests include epilepsy, Women’s health, neurotoxin treatment for spasticity, and movement disorders.

Dr. Guina practices at TPMG Neurology at Williamsburg.

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