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Finding Control Over Migraine Through Our Triggers

A life with migraine is an endless battle for control. Most of the time, it feels as though the neurological condition is sitting in the driver’s seat, unwilling to give up control of the steering wheel. In those moments, it is the small victories that we have, like identifying one of our triggers, that push migraine out of the driver’s side door. Though these moments can be short-lived, they give us a sense of control.

In our 9th Annual Migraine In America survey, 4,693 respondents shared this similar perspective.

Do you know your migraine triggers?

Migraine can be triggered by a number of things, and each new trigger that gets identified is like mapping out a new route to our final destination. The path, however, is not always a straight line. Triggers are complicated, and identifying them takes time and effort, which many of us do not have when plagued with an attack. While some of us can identify our triggers, there are still triggers out there that we question.

31% of Migraine In America survey respondents said that they can identify most of their triggers while 53% can identify some.

How often are you able to pinpoint what triggered your migraine?

With migraine, we have a long journey ahead of us to find a cure. However, every road trip, regardless of the length, requires pit stops. How many times we stop depends on whether or not we are hit with another attack, on the hunt for a trigger, or make another breakthrough in understanding or treating migraine. The question is, on how many of those stops are we able to identify our migraine triggers?

Only 3% of Migraine In America survey respondents can always figure out what triggered their migraine attack.

What are your most common migraine triggers?

Whether we use landmarks or street signs to guide us, the more we know about our triggers, the closer we get to taking back control of the steering wheel. Understanding our exact triggers is like knowing what the street signs are, and understanding what category they fall under is like knowing which landmarks to look out for. Some of our most common triggers are so specific, like dehydration, bright lights, alcohol, crying, and more. To make things a little easier, we have grouped them into categories to better understand what type of trigger is most common for those of us on the road with migraine.

The most common migraine triggers are weather (90%), food (85%), stress (84%), visual stimuli (77%), and more.

Which migraine triggers are hardest to avoid?

What is a long road trip without some obstacles along the way? Those pit stops we talked about before, like taking a break because we have been hit with another migraine attack, come all too easily when triggers are hard to avoid. At these points, it can feel as though we have lost what little control we were gaining over migraine, which is frustrating, to say the least. So, which of our triggers tend to push us back a step here and there?

49% of Migraine In America survey respondents said that the weather/environment is the hardest trigger to avoid.

What do you do to avoid your migraine triggers?

The trouble with migraine triggers is not just knowing which triggers are hardest to control, it is navigating around these obstacles. Sometimes they require us to keep extra tools in the backseat, like sunglasses or medicines, and other times it is making changes to our lifestyles and eating habits. But some of the hardest obstacles to navigate around are the ones that other people have created, like wearing certain perfumes. It is like creating a collision between our car steered by migraine and a reckless driver, completely unaware that they are causing such trouble.

Respondents navigate around their migraine triggers by keeping a “toolkit” (68%), modifying their activities (56%), avoiding certain places (52%), and more.

The 9th Annual Migraine In America 2020 survey was conducted online from June through September 2020. Of the 4,693 people who completed the survey, 4,651 were people who have been diagnosed with migraine.

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