Should the Weather Forecast Include a Migraine Alert?
A change in the weather has often been mentioned by migraine sufferers as a possible cause for the onset of their headache symptoms. Since the correlation between headache symptoms and an individual perception of the weather is often subjective and may vary from person to person, available medical studies evaluating this connection have been limited and often presented with contradictory results. Studies have evaluated possible reasons for migraines triggered by the weather including changing temperatures, degree of sunshine on a given day and of course, pressure changes in the atmosphere. Recently, researchers in Austria studied 238 people suffering from migraine with or without aura by asking them to keep a headache diary while they measured weather patterns and specific weather situations in an attempt to correlate the weather with the symptoms they recorded over a 3 month period. All of the participants in this particular study had to live within close proximity to the same weather station in order to make their group ‘weather experience’ as similar as possible.
Initially, researchers thought they saw a modest correlation with incidence of migraine and changes in the weather, such as wind speed, sunshine duration and high pressure in the atmosphere. However, these findings were not statistically significant, and could not be proven to be conclusively caused by the changes in the weather.
Because migraine patients were asked to keep track of weather and symptoms in their journals, researchers were also able to analyze participants’ perception of weather. It was found that perceptions regarding weather were often inconsistent with the actual meteorological data. Researchers believe this may be because people may be more aware of weather, particularly bad weather, when they are suffering from symptoms.
Implications for Migraine Management
Migraine sufferers often point to certain migraine triggers that they have come to associate with the onset of their migraine. In addition to weather changes, these include stress, hormone changes in women, lack of food or sleep and light exposure among others. In contrast to weather however, which is not something that can be prevented or changed, a focus on other possible triggers that can be impacted by behavior change is especially important. While the jury might still be out on a definitive correlation between weather and migraine, the use of a headache diary is especially important in helping patients to identify other possible and preventable triggers. Further study will be necessary to help us understand whether or not weather has a true and measurable impact on migraine incidence.
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