Posts Tagged "barometric headache trigger"

CLUSTER HEADACHES THROUGH THE CHANGING SEASONS.

@Neuralgroover

Cluster headaches are often considered the most severe type of headaches experienced by headache sufferers. It is often referred to as “suicide headache” because it is so severe, and unfortunately quite a few have committed suicide due to the extreme pain.

 

Cluster headache is 1 of 4 types of trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia syndromes (TACs). The headaches within this headache TACs family share some overlapping features, but have distinct differences, and are all treated much differently. So it is important to first properly confirm the diagnosis of cluster headache and clarify that it is not one of the other TACs.  The ICHD3 criteria classify cluster headache as a strictly one sided headache around the eye, temple, forehead which can last anywhere between 15 minutes up to 3 hours. On the same side of the headache, they must be associated with at least one “autonomic feature” which means a tearing and/or red eye, nasal congestion and/or runny nose, eyelid swelling or puffiness, forehead and/or facial sweating, small pupil and/or drooping eyelid. The patient often has a sense of restlessness or agitation and classically paces around the room, sometimes yelling out in pain (in contrast to migraine where the patient often wants to stay still and quiet in bed).

 

They are called cluster headaches because the headaches come in “clusters”. They may be headache free all year and then all of a sudden develop daily headaches which can occur multiple times per day (sometimes up to 8 times per day). They often occur around the same time every night or during the day, often waking the patient up from sleep around the same time nightly. These cycles of daily frequent attacks can last several weeks to several months. The majority of people who suffer from cluster headaches experience them for about 12 weeks each year, most often when the season changes (Summer to Fall and Spring to Summer). It’s one of the most painful types of headaches and is often more intense than a migraine. Let’s take a look at how cluster headaches happen during seasonal changes and what you can do about them.




Why Do Cluster Headaches Happen During the Fall and Spring?

Many people go months or years in between cluster headache cycles. When the cycles start again, they are often tied to changes in the seasons during Fall and Spring. However, cluster headaches can and do certainly come on outside of season changes as well.

 

Changing influences on the body’s biological clock (hypothalamus) have been a long suspected cause of cluster headache, and still felt to be the most likely culprit. Changes in seasons and daylight savings time changes are often associated with cluster headache flares. Daylight savings time changes impact our sleep patterns. When sleep patterns change, this changes the amount of natural light we are exposed to. For a headache sufferer, this can increase headache patterns. Changes in the amount of natural light that a person is exposed to during sleep-wake cycle changes can influence the body’s normal biological rhythms by influencing the hypothalamus. The result for many patients with cluster headache is that the cluster cycle can then be “turned on”.

 

Decreased natural light exposure during the Fall season due to a shorter duration of daylight may also impact a person’s sleep cycle. Loss of sleep may reduce endorphins (our natural pain-killers) in the body and also play a role in reducing the body’s pain tolerance threshold. A study suggested that a loss of 1 to 3 hours of sleep per night over a period of a few days could result in a headache that lasted from anywhere to 1 hour or a day. Migraine is also often very sensitive to inadequate sleep, which is a common trigger.

 

Why Do Seasonal Changes Cause Cluster Headaches

The change in hypothalamic circadian biological rhythms related to changes in sleep-wake cycles and exposure to natural light remain the most commonly suspected cause for cluster headache. However, the exact, true cause of cluster headaches are still not entirely known. Thus, there have been other theories of what causes cluster headaches as well, including changes in barometric pressure, and histamine release related to seasonal allergy changes.

 

There are a lot of headache triggers that happen during the Fall season including decreases in humidity and temperature which are associated with increases in barometric pressure. When you begin getting into Spring, Summer and warmer months, there tends to be more of a decrease in barometric pressure. These barometric pressure changes are classic migraine triggers for many patients. However, a possible relation to cluster headache has also been suggested. The exact barometric pressure that will lead to cluster headaches will vary depending on the individual. For example, a pressure of 1003 to 1007 hPa was found as a migraine trigger point in an NIH study. A specific pressure change of 6 to 10 hPa (the specific drop in air pressure) was also identified as a range in pressure drop that could cause a cluster headache or migraine.

 

Seasonal allergies have also been suggested to possibly play a role in migraines and cluster headaches. Increased allergies during season changes leads to increased histamine levels and sinus symptoms for some people. Deep within the nasal passageways lies some nervous system structures including the olfactory nerves (which allow you to smell), and important headache and facial pain related nerve ganglia, such as the SPG (sphenopalatine ganglia). For example, the SPG is sometimes blocked (SPG block) by numbing medications to abort various types of headache and facial pain including cluster headache, migraine, and trigeminal neuralgia.

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder also could be linked to various types of headaches that one experiences throughout the year. Certain people may experience a predisposition to anxiety and depression due to seasonal changes, and this may lead to headaches and insomnia.

 

Symptoms of Cluster Headaches

Seasonal cluster headaches can start at any age, however, most people tend to start experiencing these between the ages of 20 to 50. They tend to affect men more than women (in contrast to migraine which is the reverse). To review, some of the symptoms of a cluster headache can include:

  • Redness, swelling, and watering/tearing around the eye on the side of the head where the cluster headache is occurring.
  • A stuffed/congested and runny nose on the same side of the headache.
  • Pale skin and sweating.
  • Drooping of the eyelid and small pupil size on the side of the headache.
  • Sense of restlessness or agitation during the attack.

 

Some of the other headaches that a person might experience include anxiety, and waking up at night. Chronic cluster headache sufferers may notice an intensification of their headaches during the change to fall. If you have cluster headaches occurring for one year or longer without remission, or with remission periods lasting less than 3 months, you fall into the chronic cluster category, which is a small minority of cluster headache patients.




How To Alleviate Cluster Headaches That Are Brought On By Seasonal Changes

There are some very basic things that you can do if you suffer from cluster headaches during seasonal changes. Avoiding alcohol and smoking will help reduce the onset of cluster headaches for some. For example, alcohol is a classic trigger for cluster headache when a patient is in a susceptible cluster headache cycle. Sometimes even the smell of alcohol can trigger an attack. When the same person is outside of their cluster cycle, alcohol does not trigger the attack. So for those that drink alcohol and are unsure if their cluster cycle is done (if they are susceptible to an alcohol trigger), consuming alcohol will often let them know! The hormone melatonin can help regulate your sleep cycle, helping you rest better. Some studies have suggested melatonin levels are lower during a cluster cycle. The dose ranges from 5-15 mg taken about 2 hours before bedtime.

 

Otherwise, the key cluster headache treatments involve having a good abortive (as needed) treatment for when an attack happens, and a good preventive treatment to lessen the frequency and severity of attacks. The following treatments are most commonly used for cluster headaches. However, any treatment should be prescribed and discussed with your doctor because you may have other medical conditions which could make some of these treatments dangerous or life-threatening if being used inappropriately. For example, use of triptans or Dihydroergotamine (DHE) in someone with cardiac disease could cause heart attack or stroke. Use of steroids such as prednisone in someone with an ulcer could cause death by gastrointestinal bleed, or in diabetes could lead to diabetic coma and a visit to the intensive care unit due to excess glucose in the blood. Use of oxygen around smoking could cause an explosion. There are many other examples, which is why any treatment should always be provided and discussed first with your regular medical doctor. Also, you should never use treatments given by a friend if they have a similar headache disorder without first consulting with your doctor.

 

Abortive Treatment For Cluster Headaches

In appropriate patients, as soon as a cluster cycle starts, we often use a course of prednisone. Although this can be adjusted depending on the patient’s medical history, I typically start with 70 mg daily in the morning (since often energizing) with food for 3 days, decreasing by 10 mg every 3 days until off. This often helps to break up and shorten a cycle. Occipital nerve block on the same side of the headache for 1-3 days can also be effective in breaking up and shortening a cycle.

 

100% oxygen consumed by a non-rebreather facemask at cluster attack onset at 12-15 liters per minute for 10 to 15 minutes is very effective for many people.

 

Triptans have been a standard treatment abortively for not only migraine, but also for cluster headache. The difference is that oral triptans are not generally prescribed for cluster headache sufferers because the headache will frequently peak after the medication has had the opportunity to be absorbed by the body. Injectable triptans (Sumatriptan) is the fastest acting, often working within minutes. Nasal spray triptans (Sumatriptan, Zolmitriptan) are the next fastest options.

 

Dihydroergotamine (DHE) is also a good option, especially if not responding to triptans or having multiple attacks daily (DHE can last longer). Injection is the most effective, followed by the nasal spray versions).

 

Neuromodulatory devices can also be effective in aborting a cluster attack. GammaCore is a vagus nerve stimulator device that you can carry with you and it is FDA cleared for the abortive treatment of cluster headache. It is the only device currently with this clearance and indication. SPG (sphenopalatine ganglion) blocks can also be done in a variety of ways between the office or under sedation with pain management. There was a small surgically implantable SPG stimulator (implanted through the roof of the mouth) which could be turned on with the press of a button from a handheld device which seemed very promising and effective, but unfortunately got held up and blocked in regulatory processes and red tape. Hopefully this will be revived in the future.

 

Preventive Treatment For Cluster Headaches

Verapamil is often considered the gold standard of cluster headache prevention to try to stop the frequency of attacks and shorten the cluster cycle duration. It is typically started at the onset of a cluster cycle and titrated up to a higher dose depending on how the cluster attacks are responding, and how the patient is tolerating it. This is a blood pressure class of medication, so needs to be used cautiously in those with normal or low blood pressure, or if taking other blood pressure medications. Clinically, it tends to work better in the immediate release form taken three times daily as opposed to the once daily long acting version. I typically start with 40 mg or 80 mg (depending on baseline blood pressure) three times daily and increase by 40 mg every 3 days (assuming no dizziness, lightheadedness, excess fatigue, etc.) until helping or 120 mg three times daily. Although for some patients, much higher doses are required. Checking an EKG is recommended when making higher dose changes to ensure no heart block. Longer-term use of this prescription drug can be considered for chronic cluster headache or high frequency cycles through the year.

 

Emgality (Galcanezumab) ​​is one of the four available CGRP monoclonal antibodies. These are all made for migraine prevention. However, Emgality is unique in that it is currently the only FDA approved medication for prevention of episodic cluster headache. Notably, Emgality dosing is different for cluster headache prevention (300 mg injection per month) compared to migraine prevention (120 mg injection per month).

 

Other types of preventative treatments for cluster headaches include anti-seizure medications, typically starting with Divalproex (Depakote) or Topiramate (Topamax). For more refractory cases, Lithium is sometimes used as well.

 

For some patients (especially chronic cluster headache), unfortunately even these options do not help them and they turn to alternative treatment options. One option that has gained a lot of exposure is the use of tryptamines at sub-hallucinogenic dosing (“microdosing”) including psilocybin (from mushrooms), lysergic acid amide (LSA), and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD). In fact, there are also growing published studies suggesting benefits of these types of treatments. There is a group called ClusterBusters where these types of treatments are discussed further. Obviously, there are potential legal ramifications of these treatments since they are all federally illegal substances, but for some patients their cluster headache is so severe and refractory that they will do anything for relief.

 

Getting Help For Your Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches can impact your ability to complete tasks at work and can require you to take more sick leave, as referenced in one study. Cluster headaches can also have an impact on your relationships with family and friends. If you develop cluster headaches your primary care physician might be able to find a viable treatment option or refer you to a headache specialist or neurologist to help you find a solution for your cluster headaches.




IF YOU HAVE HEADACHE, MIGRAINE, OR FACIAL PAIN AND ARE LOOKING FOR ANSWERS ON ANYTHING RELATED TO IT, A HEADACHE SPECIALIST IS HERE TO HELP, FOR FREE!

FIRST, LET’S DECIDE WHERE TO START:

IF YOU HAVE AN EXISTING HEADACHE, MIGRAINE, OR FACIAL PAIN DIAGNOSIS AND ARE LOOKING FOR THE LATEST INFORMATION, HOT TOPICS, AND TREATMENT TIPS, VISIT OUR FREE BLOG OF HOT TOPICS AND HEADACHE TIPS HERE. THIS IS WHERE I WRITE AND CONDENSE A BROAD VARIETY OF COMMON AND COMPLEX  MIGRAINE AND HEADACHE RELATED TOPICS INTO THE IMPORTANT FACTS AND HIGHLIGHTS YOU NEED TO KNOW, ALONG WITH PROVIDING FIRST HAND CLINICAL EXPERIENCE FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A HEADACHE SPECIALIST.

IF YOU DON’T HAVE AN EXISTING HEADACHE, MIGRAINE, OR FACIAL PAIN DIAGNOSIS AND ARE LOOKING FOR POSSIBLE TYPES OF HEADACHES OR FACIAL PAINS BASED ON YOUR SYMPTOMS, USE THE FREE HEADACHE AND FACIAL PAIN SYMPTOM CHECKER TOOL DEVELOPED BY A HEADACHE SPECIALIST NEUROLOGIST HERE!

IF YOU HAVE AN EXISTING HEADACHE, MIGRAINE, OR FACIAL PAIN DIAGNOSIS AND ARE LOOKING FOR FURTHER EDUCATION AND SELF-RESEARCH ON YOUR DIAGNOSIS, VISIT OUR FREE EDUCATION CENTER HERE.

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Last updated on October 6th, 2021 at 06:02 pm

COMMON FOODS, ADDITIVES, AND OTHER MIGRAINE TRIGGERS.

@Neuralgroover

While the exact cause of migraines remains unknown, the neurovascular theory of migraine is currently most accurate. Regardless of exact mechanism, there are many different triggers that can bring them on. Certain types of foods, beverages, and food additives can trigger migraines. In addition to these triggers, things like excess light, visual stimuli, and noise can also trigger migraines. Let’s take a look at some of the common different triggers that can bring on a migraine.




Foods and Beverages That Can Trigger Migraines

Certain types of foods and lack of eating can cause migraines. As many as 60% of people report that food can trigger migraines. When people report having a migraine to their primary care physician or headache specialist, they often report alcohol, caffeine, and chocolate as being a common trigger for their migraine. Sometimes, foods that we associate as being healthy can also bring on migraines. For example, aged cheeses, fermented foods, and certain types of cured meats can bring on a migraine. Fermented foods, while being great for promoting gut health, contain an amino acid called tyramine, which can trigger migraines. Tyramine is also a common trigger found in aged cheeses.

 

Beverages containing certain additives such as artificial sweeteners can also cause migraines. For example, diet soda contains both caffeine and aspartame. In certain cases of people who have clinical depression, aspartame can worsen migraine symptoms. Alcohol is also a common migraine trigger. In particular, red wine and white wine may trigger migraines in individuals. Red wine triggers migraines in about 19.5% of people with migraine while white wine may trigger migraines in about 10.5% of people with migraine.

 

While many people drink coffee, tea, and energy drinks, these beverages are known to bring on migraines and headaches. An additional migraine trigger for these beverages is caffeine withdrawal. Also, over-the-counter medications for headaches and migraines could potentially contain caffeine, which may in some cases make a migraine worse. In general, caffeine can be a double edged sword. Caffeine does have some mild pain relieving properties, and it also causes mild constriction (narrowing) of dilated arteries. Both of these factors can be helpful for some patients with migraine. However, when caffeine is not in the system, headaches can be triggered as a result (caffeine withdrawal headache). A common example of this is in patients that wake in the morning with a headache that improves when they drink their morning coffee. This occurs because as they are sleeping, the caffeine is eliminated from the body. So when they wake, they are in caffeine withdrawal. Thus, why the headache gets better once they get their morning coffee flowing.

 

Other types of food additives can also trigger migraines. For example, MSG is a very common food additive that may cause migraines. Some studies have found that MSG may bring on a migraine or headache in the face area. On food labels, it is often hidden as other names including glutamate, natural flavor, and partially hydrogenated vegetable protein. There is an MSG symptom complex reported by some patients which can include facial pressure, burning, headache, nausea, bronchospasm/wheezing, palpitations, and paresthesias (tingling/numbness).

 

Nitrates and nitrites are also common migraine triggers. These are vasodilating agents found in many foods, especially preserved and processed meats such as lunch meats, sausage, smoked foods, pork, bacon, salami, pastrami, hot dogs, corned beef, ham, and bratwurst. So if you have a child that is getting a lot of headaches and migraines, and eats lunchmeat for lunch, you may want to look into nitrate and nitrite-free lunch meat options.

 

Dehydration and Migraines

People who suffer from migraine report that dehydration is a common trigger. Even the slightest notion of dehydration can fast track the onset of a migraine, causing dizziness, confusion, and the other classic symptoms of a migraine. In some cases, people who drink water after the onset of migraine might notice a decrease in the severity of their symptoms.

 

Lack of Sleep and Migraines

People who do not sleep enough often tend to experience migraines with more frequency and severity. When a person doesn’t sleep enough, the body tends to produce more of a certain type of protein that can cause migraines and pain. Also, during a regular sleep cycle, the body tends to have more REM sleep cycles, which can regulate certain processes in the body. One of the most common things migraine sufferers experience during sleep deprivation is that rest or sleep will often mitigate the severity of their migraine. Getting good sleep plays a big role in not only influencing migraine and headache, but a wide variety of other normal body functions. During the deep restorative stages of sleep, your body is replenishing it’s many neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters influence mood, concentration, energy, attention, memory, and a variety of neurologic functions. So, if you are not getting those deep stages of sleep, you become deficient in neurotransmitters, and the result is often worsening headaches, migraines, anxiety, depression, fatigue, poor memory, concentration, and focus. For example, the most common cause of anxiety and depression is serotonin deficiency in the brain. For this reason, many antidepressants work by replacing serotonin levels. Thus, good sleep may be able to bypass the need for replacement by these medications for some patients, in addition to improving headache frequency. The optimal amount of sleep is generally considered to be 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, which is often easier said than done for many people with today’s hectic schedules.

 

Light, Smell, and Sound Sensitivity Can Also Trigger Migraines

Migraine is a disorder of neurological overactivity and oversensitivity. The neurological wiring in patients with migraine is set at a much lower threshold for triggering a migraine, as compared to someone without migraine. Sometimes, elements in our environment can also be attributed to the onset of migraines. Direct sunlight can be a primary trigger for migraines. Driving by a white picket fence alternating with bright light in between, fluorescent office lighting (which almost universally drives people with migraine insane), flashing strobe lights, or looking at the sun reflecting off a shiny surface are commonly reported visual triggers. While the outdoors and exercise are great for health, wearing a cap or sunglasses and finding a shady area may help alleviate the onset of migraine. Sometimes, direct sunlight can make an existing migraine worse, especially if the migraine was triggered by sleep deprivation, dehydration, or skipping a meal.

 

Prolonged loud sound can also trigger migraines in some individuals. For example, loud concert music and high decibel noises can trigger a migraine. In addition, some noises can become more bothersome or disturbing for someone experiencing a migraine, such as chewing noises, clocks ticking, and doors opening and closing.

 

Smells can also be associated with the onset of migraines. About 50% of people report heightened sensitivity to smells when they have a migraine attack. The most common scent trigger for a migraine comes from perfumes, which may be associated with aerosols and additives in the perfume itself. The smell of tobacco and certain types of foods are also common triggers and agitators of migraines that are associated with scent. Although oversensitivity to smell (osmophobia) is not listed in the ICHD3 criteria for migraine diagnosis, it is very specific for migraine and often an easy clue for the diagnosis.




Changes In the Weather and Migraines

Seasonal and weather changes may also have an impact on the onset of migraines. Here are some of the types of changes in weather that may agitate migraine sufferers:

  • Changes in barometric pressure
  • Extreme changes in temperature where it becomes suddenly hot or suddenly cold, such as during season changes
  • Storms, especially where there is thunder and lightning
  • Dry and dusty weather

 

Another common trigger for migraines that is largely environmental is smoke. People who suffer from migraines report smoke as being a frequent migraine trigger and will avoid camping, barbecues, and other outdoor activities where there is smoke.

 

Why do changes in the weather cause migraines? People who already suffer from migraines and headaches tend to have a greater sensitivity to environmental changes. It is also common that people who have migraines triggered by environmental sensitivity do not discuss these triggers with their doctor.

 

Hormonal factors

Migraine occurs in 20% of women (1 in 5), and 6% of men (1 in 16). There is a reason for that difference, and it relates to hormonal differences. Before puberty, migraines actually occur more commonly in boys. However, once menarche (menstrual cycles) begins for girls, they take over in migraine frequency from that point on. Menstrual migraine is typically triggered by the drop in estrogen prior to a menstrual cycle. Menstrual migraine and its treatments are discussed in much greater detail here. Perimenopause (entering menopause, menopause, and exiting menopause) is also a common time of life where migraines can become much more frequent and severe for women, due to hormonal fluctuations. Interestingly, during pregnancy migraines improve for many women, and it is not uncommon that they report having no migraines at all during pregnancy (because the drop in estrogen is not occurring every month). Migraines often return shortly after pregnancy ends, and can initially seem more severe. Some women may not notice much improvement during pregnancy, while some can get worse.

 

Stress

Stress is one of the most common migraine triggers, which is unfortunately typically hard to avoid. For some patients, it is the opposite. They may get stress let-down migraines. For example, they get a migraine every time they are dealing with less stress, such as when they go on vacation, or every weekend when they don’t have to get up and go to work. These are particularly cruel types of migraine triggers! There can be other variables involved in migraine triggers in these scenarios too though. For example, if they sleep in longer than normal on the weekend, that can be a trigger for some patients since migraine is often influenced by sleep patterns. The weekend migraine could also relate to caffeine withdrawal if they sleep in and don’t get their normal weekday caffeine as early on the weekend compared to the weekdays.

 

Allergies and Migraines

Migraines and sinus headaches from allergies both have very common symptoms. Generally speaking, a migraine from an allergy will be more intense than a sinus headache and display the classic migraine symptoms such as nausea, throbbing pain, sensitivity to light, and a lengthy headache (up to 3 days and frequently recurring).

 

People with allergies are ten times more likely to develop migraines than people without allergies. The most common reason for migraines from an allergy is due to histamine release, your body’s overreaction to external and internal triggers that are driving your allergies.

 

Allergy shots and triptans are common ways to treat allergy-related migraines once they have started. Medications like beta-blockers may prevent allergy-related migraines before they happen.

 

IF YOU HAVE HEADACHE, MIGRAINE, OR FACIAL PAIN AND ARE LOOKING FOR ANSWERS ON ANYTHING RELATED TO IT, A HEADACHE SPECIALIST IS HERE TO HELP, FOR FREE!

FIRST, LET’S DECIDE WHERE TO START:

IF YOU HAVE AN EXISTING HEADACHE, MIGRAINE, OR FACIAL PAIN DIAGNOSIS AND ARE LOOKING FOR THE LATEST INFORMATION, HOT TOPICS, AND TREATMENT TIPS, VISIT OUR FREE BLOG OF HOT TOPICS AND HEADACHE TIPS HERE. THIS IS WHERE I WRITE AND CONDENSE A BROAD VARIETY OF COMMON AND COMPLEX  MIGRAINE AND HEADACHE RELATED TOPICS INTO THE IMPORTANT FACTS AND HIGHLIGHTS YOU NEED TO KNOW, ALONG WITH PROVIDING FIRST HAND CLINICAL EXPERIENCE FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF A HEADACHE SPECIALIST.

 

IF YOU DON’T HAVE AN EXISTING HEADACHE, MIGRAINE, OR FACIAL PAIN DIAGNOSIS AND ARE LOOKING FOR POSSIBLE TYPES OF HEADACHES OR FACIAL PAINS BASED ON YOUR SYMPTOMS, USE THE FREE HEADACHE AND FACIAL PAIN SYMPTOM CHECKER TOOL DEVELOPED BY A HEADACHE SPECIALIST NEUROLOGIST HERE!

 

IF YOU HAVE AN EXISTING HEADACHE, MIGRAINE, OR FACIAL PAIN DIAGNOSIS AND ARE LOOKING FOR FURTHER EDUCATION AND SELF-RESEARCH ON YOUR DIAGNOSIS, VISIT OUR FREE EDUCATION CENTER HERE.




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