Migraine with Aura Triggers May Be Less Impactful Than Thought

According to a small study published in the journal Neurology, some triggers associated with migraine with aura may not be as strong as we’ve been lead to believe.

Some of the triggers most commonly thought to be associated with migraine with aura are things that, if avoided, can be detrimental to other aspects of a migraineur’s health, such as exercise. For this reason these researchers set out to determine if our beliefs about common triggers such as exercise and bright or flickering light lead to migraine attacks among people living with migraine with aura as frequently as thought.

migraine-triggers-exercise-lightTo gather information the researchers recruited 27 people living with migraine with aura and exposed them to both triggers. To address the exercise issue, patients were either asked to complete an intense run or ride an exercise bike for one hour. Additionally, the study participants were exposed to bright, flickering light for 30 to 40 minutes.

The study found that 11 percent of participants experienced migraine with aura after exposure to exercise or light. Another 11 percent experienced migraine without aura after exposure to exercise or light. No study participants experienced migraine with aura after the light exposure alone.

In an editorial in Neurology that accompanied the study write up, headache disorders expert Peter Goadsby of the University of California, San Francisco, said this research indicates these two triggers may be behavior-driven responses rather than triggers. In other words, it is possible that migraineurs feel compelled to exercise at an early phase of the migraine attack and that the presumption that light is a trigger is actually simply the well-recognized sensitivity to light (photophobia) that occurs during a migraine attack.

This particular study did not examine other common migraine triggers such as food or drinks, weather changes, exposure to intense heat, crying, dehydration, odors, inconsistency in one’s schedule, etc.

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