Yes, Our Migraines Have Triggers

Trigger identification and management is an essential element of Migraine management. Some triggers are avoidable, some aren’t.

If we identify triggers that are avoidable, that can result in fewer Migraines, needing less medication, and an improved quality of life.

It can be difficult to identify our Migraine triggers. This leads some people to believe they have no triggers. This simply isn’t the case. Our Migraines do have triggers.

Why it can seem we don’t have triggers…

  • Sometimes, triggers can be hard to identify if someone tends to have Migraines brought on by cumulative or stackable triggers. This is when we have triggers that aren’t strong enough to precipitate a Migraine when only one is encountered, but if two or more are encountered together, their combined strength can precipitate a Migraine.
  • Exposure to some triggers can result in a Migraine up to 48 hours later. That can lead to people not recognizing those triggers.
  • Triggers can change over time. When new triggers develop, it can be easy to miss them.
  • Underlying or comorbid (occurring at the same time, but not causing each other) conditions can be triggers that we don’t recognize.

    Some examples:

    • A thyroid condition that’s not well controlled can trigger Migraines.
    • Poorly controlled diabetes can result in too high or too low glucose levels, which can trigger Migraines.
    • Some Migraineurs who can’t always identify all of their triggers find that they have idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), aka pseudotumor cerebri. This condition causes the body to either produce too much cerebrospinal fluid or not absorb it properly, resulting in increased intracranial hypetension. Diagnosing IIH can be problematic because even some doctors don’t fully understand it. Some believe that papilledema (swelling of the optic nerves) must be present, and that IIH can be diagnosed with by examining the optic nerves. This is incorrect. Papilledema is not always present with IIH. The only truly definitive test for diagnosing or ruling out IIH is a lumbar puncture (spinal tap).
  • Some Migraineurs simply aren’t aware of what can be triggers. Unfortunately, some doctors never discuss triggers with their patients. I’ve lost track of how many Migraineurs have told me that their doctors never even mentioned triggers, let alone explain how important trigger identification and management is.
  • Triggers can be inconsistent. What triggers a Migraine one day may not trigger one on another day, leading us to not think of it as a trigger.

The bottom line:

Migraines DO have triggers. Even if you don’t think you have triggers, you do. Working to identify and manage them is a proactive step we can take to help ourselves. One of the most helpful tools in identifying our triggers is a Migraine diary.

More information:

For more information, see Migraine Management Essential 3: Trigger ID and Management.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


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