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Trigger versus Cause

Migraine is a disease. It is a genetic vulnerability to periodic attacks that frequently include moderate to severe head pain, light and sound sensitivity, nausea, vomiting, and a lot more.

Frequently, people will say, “I have a migraine.”

“No, you do not,” I clarify, “What you have are the symptoms of a neurological attack as a result of an incurable disease known as Migraine. These attacks are set off by environmental factors called triggers.”

Each person with Migraine disease has a unique set of triggers. Identifying and avoiding triggers is an important part of good migraine management. Some people are fortunate enough to discover a trigger they can avoid. Others find a diet or lifestyle change that helps protect them from trigger exposure.

When this happens, it can feel like a cure. I certainly understand that feeling. My own experience with Botox has made me a lot more resistant to even my toughest triggers. My strongest trigger is thunderstorms…not exactly something I can avoid. Yet with regular Botox treatment I stay symptom-free through many of the worst thunderstorms.

But it’s not a cure.

If I stopped getting treatments, I would once again experience migraine attacks during thunderstorms. At any time, this treatment could stop working. The results would be the same.

It’s cause for celebration anytime we find a way to significantly reduce our symptoms. We just need to remember that our treatment success is simply that – a successful management of symptoms. By all means, tell the world. Have a party.

But please, don’t ever claim to have found the cure for Migraine disease. That’s an insult to every migraineur still fighting to find the key(s) that will unlock his or her success story. We owe it to our fellow migraineurs to speak honestly about the prognosis of the disease.

Every migraineur deserves to know the truth…

Migraine is a genetic, neurological disease characterized by periodic attacks. These attacks frequently include a wide range of neurological symptoms such as moderate to severe headache on one side, photophobia, phonophobia, nausea, and so much more. These attacks can occur a few times each year or every day. They can appear and disappear with or without explanation. There is no known cure. The best scientists don’t even know what causes it.

If someone can’t articulate the basics to you in this way, then start questioning their knowledge of migraine disease.  Don’t believe anyone who tells you they know the cause or offer you a cure.

If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

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.


  • Michelle Rudder
    4 years ago

    Gosh, I am a barometer too. I never thought I would find another person with thunderstorms as a trigger. During the June to November months, I suffer. I would get these sudden attacks, like someone hit me on the head with a hammer. My BF would say ..”Oh, a tropical wave is probably coming”, and he would be correct. Changes in atmospheric pressure trigger the worst migraines for me. Second worse after MSG.

  • Livvy
    4 years ago

    You made me curious to look this up:
    Origin of MIGRAINE
    Middle English mygreyn, from Middle French migraine, modification of Late Latin hemicrania pain in one side of the head, from Greek hēmikrania, from hēmi- hemi- + kranion cranium
    First Known Use: 15th century (Webster’s Dictionary)
    It is also a noun so I’m not clear why it would be incorrect to say I have a migraine Or I have migraine anymore than it would to say I have allergies. But the truth is I have a migraine as I’m writing so too much pain to suss it out. Also I think we use catch all words to simplify speech and know that the public gets in general what that word encompasses. Wow, didn’t mean to write so much about it but it distracted me from pain for a bit. :- )

  • Tammy Rome author
    4 years ago


    See my response to Vanessa. You are technically correct. The problem is that the general public sees migraine as problem we create for ourselves. In order to raise awareness that migraine is an incurable disease that we live with all the time, I use the term “migraine attack” to refer to each episode. I don’t stop having migraine just because the pain is gone.

  • Patrick Lewis
    4 years ago

    I have had the symptoms of Migraine 24/7 for about 5 years. The only thing that changes is which symptoms I have, which charges numerous times a day. My neurologist says that my Migraine is med resistant, and that the cause is unknown and I will probably never know the cause. I have identified a number of things that make the symptoms worse, so I guess they are my triggers. I use anti seizure meds that I was told is supposed to be preventative. I have been told that I now have less “lights on but no one home occurrences. The Triptons helped a little initially, but now are useless, same with Botox. I now use Norco numerous times a day, and my migraine cocktail. My cocktail consists of Ibuprofen, Phenergan and Benadryl. These meds provides some relief, but my pain level still rarely goes below level 9.0. acupuncture is also helpful. Any thoughts?

  • Jill M.
    4 years ago

    Patrick, please make sure that your neurologist is a migraine/headache specialist. It makes a big difference! Not every neurologist is well-versed in migraine management. I visited three different neurologists before I found one who is truly knowledgable. Good luck!!

    Please see these articles:

  • Vanessa
    4 years ago

    If someone says, “I heard you were out sick yesterday. Are you ok?”, I’m going to say, “I had a migraine.” not “I had the symptoms of a neurological attack as a result of an incurable disease known as Migraine. These attacks are set off by environmental factors called triggers.” LOL

  • Tammy Rome author
    4 years ago


    LOL. I like your spunk. 🙂

    Have you seen the article Changing the way we talk about migraine? In it I explain why I don’t use the word “migraine” to refer to individual attacks. If someone asks, I say that I am having a “migraine attack”.

    I do this as an awareness issue. Most people think of triggers as causes. Migraine is a disease that we live with 24/7. Studies have proven that there are symptoms even between attacks. The general public believes that we bring attacks on ourselves and that if we would just eat right, think positive, relax, etc. then we would never get sick again.

    So I don’t say “I have a migraine.” because that implies that I am no longer sick when the attack ends. That is simply not true. Just like someone with epilepsy is still sick between seizures, so migraineurs are still sick between attacks.

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