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What are some common causes of migraine headaches?

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Quick Answer

Although the exact causes of migraine headaches are unknown as of 2015, possible triggers include certain foods and drinks, stress, sensory stimuli, and changes in sleep patterns, as listed by Mayo Clinic. Hormonal changes may also trigger migraine headaches in women.

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What are some common causes of migraine headaches?
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Full Answer

Genetics, environmental factors and brain stem changes may play a role in migraine headaches, as stated by Mayo Clinic. An imbalance of serotonin and other chemicals in the brain may also play a role. Changes in estrogen often trigger headaches in women with migraines, particularly during the days before and after the menstrual period when estrogen drops. Other hormonal triggers may include menopause, pregnancy and the use of hormonal contraceptives; however, some women find that hormonal contraceptives reduce the incidence of migraines.

Common food triggers include aged cheeses, processed foods, salty foods, foods containing aspartame, and foods containing the additive monosodium glutamate, according to Mayo Clinic. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages can also trigger headaches, and some patients experience migraines after skipping meals. Sensory triggers may include unusual scents, sun glare and bright lights. Changes in barometric pressure may bring about migraines. Excess sleep and too little sleep can both have an effect on migraines as can physical exertion and stress at work or home.

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