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Migraine Causes

Doctors and researchers simply don’t know with 100 percent certainty what causes migraines. There is a lot of research that points to different malfunctions in the way the brain of migraine sufferers operate.

One leading theory for the cause of migraines is “cortical spreading depression.” This wave of brain activity that sweeps over the brain, can be seen on an MRI and is blamed for migraine aura and other migraine symptoms. Others believe hyperactivity in the brain stem causes migraines.

Because migraines are difficult to control, many people with this disorder often take medication regularly. Overuse of medication can also lead to migraines. Also, sometimes people with migraines can point to a specific migraine trigger such as bright lights or a certain food that sparks a migraine attack.

Although the definite reason behind migraines remains a mystery, several other factors may contribute such as:

What causes migraines to run in families?

Most people with migraines, up to 70 percent, have a family history of migraines. In fact, if an immediate family member suffers from migraines you have a 14-fold increased risk of having migraines. The link between mothers with migraines and their children is stronger than the link from father to child – mothers are twice as likely to pass along migraines to children than fathers. Although most evidence points to migraines being an inherited disorder, there is very little that proves exactly what genes cause the disorder. In just one type of migraine, familial hemiplegic migraine, has the genetic relationship been proven.


Written by: Otesa Miles | Last review date: November 2010
Migraine headaches, Harvard Medical School report, 9/9/08