Medical officials say cooler temperatures can cause more frequent migraines


Medical officials say a change in climate and or weather can trigger a migraine.

While a lot of people look forward to the cooler, crisp fall temperatures every year, those who are susceptible to migraines might not.

The National Headache Foundation states in their research that a change in climate or weather (such as a change in humidity or temperature), can trigger a migraine.

Dr. Richard Tiberio, chief medical officer of Highlands Hospital in Connellsville, said the reason has to do with a chemical called serotonin and something called vasodilation.

“When there are colder external temperatures, it causes the blood vessels to constrict, which is the primary mediator in migraines,” he said.

When your body senses this, it will release serotonin, a vasodilator.

“When the constricted blood vessels aren’t supplying enough blood to different parts of your body, such as the brain, the body will send mediators to open up the blood vessels,” Tiberio said.

The migraine is triggered when the mediator opens up the blood vessels because the immediate increase of blood flow to the brain happens very fast and is very powerful, he said.

According to the World Health Organization, a migraine is a primary headache disorder that most often begins at puberty and most affects those between 35 and 45 years old.

It is more common in women, usually by a factor of about two to one because of hormonal influences.

“It’s caused by the activation of a mechanism deep in the brain that leads to release of pain-producing inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head,” said the organization’s website.

They are recurrent, often life-long, and characterized by attacks that include headaches of moderate or severe intensity, one-sided or pulsating that are aggravated by routine physical activity.

The World Health Organization added that migraines can occur anywhere from once a year to once a week and can last from hours to up to two or three days. They are usually accompanied by nausea.

In children, attacks tend to be of shorter duration, but the abdominal symptoms are more prominent.

Tiberio said there are a lot of different factors that can trigger a migraine, from caffeine to a drop in blood sugar if a meal is skipped

“Stress, alcohol, chocolate, anxiety, sleep disorders and even bright lights,” he said. “With bright lights, once again, serotonin can be released after the suddenness of the bright lights on an individuals system can cause their blood vessels to constrict.”

Because migraines are connected with the vascular system, they are often pounding like a heartbeat and there are a lot of visual symptoms associated with them.

“You can start to get blurred vision or loss of vision even,” Tiberio said. “The symptoms can be stroke-like in nature with numbness and tingling.”

He added that those who suffer from migraines regularly can tell a lot of times when they’re going to get a migraine.

“If they can sense the early indicators, then they can lessen the impact of the migraines with certain treatments,” Tiberio said.

If the early symptoms are detected, the doctor recommended responding with medicines that include triptans.

“There are about 10 different brands out there and all will work if you can get to it before the migraine starts, but once the migraine starts, these won’t help a whole lot,” Tiberio said.

Once the migraine hits, the use of non-steroid, anti-inflammatory medicine, such as Advil, is the best bet, he said, noting that migraines often-times cause nausea, vomiting and even the inability to stand up and function properly.

If the migraine has persisted for longer than 24 hours, Tiberio said a trip to the emergency room might be in order, where they can give fluids and administer medicines through an IV for faster relief.

He added that if an individual suffers from migraines on a frequent level, there is a beta-blocker therapy that could help alleviate their frequency if taken on a daily basis.

Tiberio said there is really no known reason as to why some people suffer with migraines while others do not.

“It’s the bio-chemical nature of the brain, and we all have different patterns,” he said “It also has to do with nerve sensitivity. There’s really nothing you can do about it. Some of it might be genetics and some might be in the way you’re brought up (because anxiety can affect this) and some of it is how you live your life.”

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