People used to believe they knew migraine headache triggers, but now scientists aren't so sure. In fact, according to research published in Neurology, some scientists are now doubting conventional wisdom about just what causes migraine headaches.
Danish researchers selected 27 migraine with aura (MA) patients whom reportedly experienced flickering or bright lights whom then underwent photo stimulation and strenuous exercise to "provoke" a migraine with aura attack.
After the experiment, each patient was monitored by the research team. Olesen and colleagues noted that while none of the volunteers experienced MA after light exposure alone, three patients experienced MA, three other patients experience migraine without aura attacks, and four of the patients experienced migraine without aura following exercise.
The experiment intended to assess causal relation between migraine triggers and attacks but only found MA in a small subset of the study group. One could look at those results as a signal for when migraine attacks will occur. Afterall, if a person happens to be exposed to a trigger and not experience a migraine, it could mean that particular trigger will be less troublesome for the migraine sufferer further down the line.
And while this may be good news, the sample size is too small to reach a definitive conclusion. In fact Olesen and colleagues said that prospective confirmation is needed "for future studies of migraine trigger factors and in the clinical management of patients with migraines."
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Hougaard A, Amin F, Hauge AW, Ashina M, & Olesen J (2013). Provocation of migraine with aura using natural trigger factors. Neurology, 80 (5), 428-31 PMID: 23345632
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