The Link Between Weather Changes and Migraines

General Neurology located in Albuquerque, NM

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The Link Between Weather Changes and Migraines

If you notice that cloudy, hot, dry, or humid weather brings on a migraine attack, it’s not just your imagination. You may be one of many people with migraines who are sensitive to weather changes.

Although most individuals have had the occasional headache, migraines are a distinct experience. Even though 39 million Americans suffer from migraines, which are a common neurological condition, they can be extremely disabling.

Here at Neurology Specialists of Albuquerque, our board-certified neurologist Timothy Ownbey, DO, specializes in diagnosing and treating migraines and other neurological disorders. Many people who live with migraines experience significant impairment in their daily lives. 

Head pain is only one aspect. Migraines are a specific neurological disorder with symptoms that frequently include light or sound sensitivity and nausea. One side of the head is typically worse than the other. When a migraine strikes it can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.

Weather changes are one of the many factors that might set off a migraine attack for millions of people. Let's talk about the specific ways that weather changes can trigger a migraine. 

How does weather trigger migraines?

Over half of people living with migraines report weather as a trigger, according to an analysis published in 2015. Storms, severe temperatures, and changes in barometric pressure may trigger migraines. Some people with migraines may be sensitive to changes in serotonin and other brain chemicals. Weather may alter brain chemicals, triggering an attack.

The relationship between migraine and weather has been inconsistently studied, in part because it is difficult to investigate, and not everyone responds the same way to weather changes.

Some people experience migraines when the temperature rises, while others experience them when the temperature drops. Certain individuals are more sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity than others.

In certain circumstances, a migraine is triggered by a combination of factors. For instance, you may get an attack on humid days, but only if there are other contributing factors such as stress or hunger. 

High temperatures may set off migraine attacks

When temperatures and humidity rise, there is an increase in emergency department visits for migraines, according to a 2017 study. What’s more, people tend to get more migraine attacks in the summer months.

It’s important to know that other factors may contribute to attacks. For example, you’re more likely to become dehydrated during hot weather, and it may be the combination of heat and dehydration that triggers an attack.

Scientists don’t know for sure why higher temperatures trigger migraines in some people. However, triple digit temperatures put you at risk for an attack if you’re prone to weather-related migraines.

While you can’t control the weather, you can implement strategies such as staying well-hydrated, keeping as cool as possible, and avoiding things that cause fluid loss, such as caffeine and alcohol.

Drop in barometric pressure may spell trouble

Some people with migraines appear to be particularly sensitive to changes in barometric pressure, which is a measurement of air pressure. Rising barometric pressure indicates rising air pressure, whereas dropping barometric pressure indicates declining air pressure.

Blood vessels respond to changes in air pressure by narrowing or expanding, and this may explain why changes in barometric pressure can bring on migraines in some people.

Blood vessels constrict in response to an increase in barometric pressure, and they expand in response to a drop in pressure. High barometric pressure is associated with dry hot weather, while low barometric pressure is linked to clouds and rain.

Even a slight change in barometric pressure can trigger migraine attacks, according to a 2015 study.

The drop in barometric pressure, which causes the brain's blood vessels to expand, causes changes in brain chemicals like serotonin, and researchers believe this contributes to migraines in some people. 

Other weather changes that may trigger a migraine

There are a wide variety of weather-related changes that may trigger migraines in some people. Each person is unique, which is why our team uses an individualized approach to managing migraines. 

Some individuals report bright sunlight or windy weather as a trigger. It helps to keep a migraine journal and record weather patterns you think may contribute to your migraines. Our team will work closely with you to create a treatment plan that reduces the frequency and severity of your migraines

If you’re struggling with migraines, let our team help you get them under control so that they don’t significantly impact your daily life. To schedule a visit with Dr. Ownbey, contact our Albuquerque office or book online today.