Triggers Of A Migraine With Aura

End Your Aura, Reduce Your Migraines...

The Short Answer

Learning the basic triggers of a migraine with aura will give you a huge boost in reducing them.

Triggers of any migraine are a personal thing and, even though the aura has a separate cause, research has failed to find significantly different triggers for the aura to that of the migraine itself.

In this article we consider which triggers are most likely to affect you and how to avoid them.

Learning About Your Migraine…

If there is one thing that scientific studies have taught us about migraines, it is that one person’s migraine is not the same as anybody else’s.

While there a number of potential causes of migraines (genes/ age etc), they are fundamentally caused by either a central nervous system, vascular or brain disorder.

PLEASE NOTE – There is a big difference between the causes of a migraine with aura (which concerns why you might develop a migraine with aura in the 1st place), and the triggers of a migraine with aura – triggers being the likely instigators of your next migraine.

Furthermore, in each case it is the effect on your brain that it thought to cause you to develop a tendency for migraines.

Unfortunately, once you start developing migraines, you can’t reverse them.

However, this is not true for the ‘aura’ before or during a migraine with aura. This, with good management, is ‘fully-reversible’ as labelled by The International Classification of Headache Disorders 3rd edition

How exactly you reverse a tendency to suffer migraines with aura, is very much a personal experience – as are the aura’s themselves.

However, one key weapon in your fight against migraines with aura, is to recognise and then avoid the potential triggers.

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How do I Recognise The Triggers of a Migraine with Aura…

Recognising what personally triggers a migraine in you is not always easy, but keeping a diary will make it a lot easier.

By keeping a diary you can take note of everything that you do, eat and feel. Then after suffering a migraine, do your best to remember what symptoms you had and rate the various stages on a pain scale of 1-10.

After a migraine you can use your diary to go back and look over the lead-up.

What you want to search for is patterns over the last 10 or 20 migraines. Going back just 2 or 3 migraines is ok, but the further you can go back the better as it will easier to spot patterns and assess what difference various changes have made.

The key then is to look through your diary like a scientist, with a basic knowledge of the common triggers of a migraine with aura.

First you want to look for a recurring theme such as ‘4 out of my 5 migraines were on a Sunday following an end-of-month Friday board meeting’. In that case stress, and changed sleeping patterns during the week are the likely triggers.

Then look for where you have cut some triggers out and what impact it’s had on the firstly the severity and frequency of the aura.

In other words, how many times (as a %) has your migraine featured an aura and how severe was it? Has cutting down on processed foods (for example) reduced the number of times your migraine is accompanied by an aura?

There is no guarantee that you can change a Friday end-of-month board meeting of course, but once you know what is causing your migraines with aura, then it’s up to you as to how much you want to change.

Maybe an extra special effort to get your preparation done for the meeting by the Monday before, might mean less late nights during the stressful lead up.

This in turn may be enough to reduce the times you suffer with an aura, even if it doesn’t alter the overall number of migraines (just more without aura).

Even this small change may make a sizable difference given the dangers of suffering an aura.

Other changes may make a bigger effect or no effect at all (and you can resume them) – but without keeping a diary will have no idea as to what is triggering your migraines with aura and what difference you can actually make.

Potential Triggers of a Migraine with Aura…

There are a large number of triggers of a migraine with aura.

For this reason, I haven’t gone in to too much detail, but I have sorted them into two lists – one that contains those triggers proven to be connected to your auras as well as your migraines and those that are just general trigger factors.

  • Stress. All types of stress have probably the strongest association with migraines that contain aura.
  • Reduction Of Stress. So-called ‘let-down’. For example, at the weekend following a week of stress. The change in stress levels can actually trigger a migraine with aura (Lipton et al, Neurology
  • Bright lights/ Reflected Sunlight. Bright lights and sunlight was recorded as the 2nd most likely trigger of a migraine with aura. (Kelman, Cephalalgia: An International Journal of Headache
  • Sleep Disturbance. Losing in particular can trigger migraines with aura, but so too can more sleep than you are used to (aka ‘weekend migraines’).
  • Alcohol. Red wine in particular has been linked to migraines that include an aura.
  • Emotional Changes. Anger, sadness – even great excitement can trigger an aura with a migraine if you are not careful.
  • Strong Smells. Perfumes and after-shaves in particular are thought to be particular culprits for instigating a migraine with aura.
  • Exercise. There is some debate as to where this should sit. On the one hand, exercise is great for hormone balance and avoiding migraines. On the other hand, running, bike riding and even household cleaning have all been shown to trigger a migraine with an aura.
  • Change of Seasons. This is the final trigger that has a really strong connection to provoking a migraine complete with aura. The change of seasons particularly to one with more daylight typically sees a surge in the number of people suffering migraines with aura.

On top of these scientifically established triggers of a migraine with aura, there is the normal list of other migraine triggers.

Depending on your propensity to suffer an aura as well, these could also prove key to you. As we mentioned earlier your migraine triggers are a very personal thing.

Having said that, we do know that some activities will trigger a migraine in a great many people, just as we know the list above can also trigger migraines without aura – but have a strong connection/ likelihood of instigating an aura migraine.

These other, more general, migraine triggers include –

  • Loud Music
  • Poor posture
  • High Caffeine Use
  • Sugary Drinks
  • Salty or Spicy Foods
  • Aged Foods such as Cheese or
  • Cured Meat
  • Hormonal Changes
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Birth Control
  • Medications (especially vasodilators)
  • Headache Medication
  • Smoking or smoke exposure
  • Neck pain
  • Dehydration

The Final Word –

Recognising the triggers of a migraine with aura is essential if you are going to reduce their frequency and ultimately stop the aura phase from occurring at all.

Given the (at times) seemingly hopeless task facing many migraine sufferers of battling migraines that can never be stopped altogether, the prospect of at least ending the particularly dangerous aura phase, would be a big boost.

Hopefully this page has shed some light on the areas to focus on when looking to identify your personal triggers for a migraine with aura.

You can access further advice by reading our article on ‘treatment for a migraine with aura’ to help complete the picture of how to counter the aura, if not stop the migraine itself.

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References Used –

1. The International Classification of Headache Disorders 3rd edition. https://ichd-3.org/
2. Richard B. Lipton, Dawn C. Buse, Charles B. Hall, Howard Tennen, Tiffani A. DeFreitas, Thomas M. Borkowski, Brian M. Grosberg, Sheryl R. Haut. (April 2014). Reduction in perceived stress as a migraine trigger. Testing the “let-down headache” hypothesis. Neurology.
3. L Kelman. (May 2007). The Triggers or Precipitants of the Acute Migraine Attack. Cephalalgia: an International Journal of Headache).

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