Question: How does the weather impact migraines?
The migraine brain is very sensitive in that any time the brain becomes excitable, this can trigger a migraine. There are many types of known triggers, such as red wine, missing a meal, getting a poor night’s sleep, and weather changes. In fact, migraine attacks triggered by weather changes have been reported in up to 75% of sufferers. Some migraine sufferers say they can predict with reasonable certainty when certain weather patterns occur because these will seem to trigger an attack.
The most common weather change that patients report as a cause is rapidly falling atmospheric pressure which is typically seen when a storm is coming. However, other patients state that the bright sun, hot weather, cold weather, strong winds and seasonal changes. Interestingly, many undiagnosed migraineurs feel they have sinus headaches or sinus infections during these seasonal changes when actually they have migraine attacks. A 2004 study examined the sinus headaches of almost 3000 patients and approximately 90% of them met criteria for migraine!
Even more interesting, while many patients swear that their attacks can be triggered by weather changes, studies on the relationship between migraine and weather have never shown consistency. A recent study conducted in Austria examined over 20,000 days recorded by over 200 patients with migraine. Weather factors examined included temperature, barometric pressure, wind speed, sunshine duration, and humidity. There was no single significant influence of weather on migraine attack frequency. Also, the patient’s perception of the weather did not correlate with the frequency either.
So, while there does not seem to be an overall influence of weather patterns in migraine, it is still important for individuals to keep track of their attacks via diaries and calendars. There are other triggers and influential patterns, i.e. menstruation, that have a more profound effect on migraine frequency than weather and these can be targets of treatment.