Migraine triggers vary greatly between headache sufferers. Common triggers may affect patients in different ways, i.e., chocolate may trigger a severe migraine in some and not induce headache in others. No two headaches or headache sufferers are the same.

Below are the most common triggers, according to the Mayo Clinic and The National Headache Foundation.

  • Hormonal Changes in Women.

Changes in estrogen seem to trigger headaches in many women with known migraines. Women with a history of migraines often report headaches immediately before or during menstruation, when they have a major drop in estrogen. Many women also develop migraines during pregnancy or menopause, even if they have no history of migraine.

  • Foods.

Some migraines appear to be triggered by certain foods. These foods commonly include alcohol, especially beer and red wine, aged cheeses, chocolate, aspartame (artificial sweeteners), overuse of caffeine, monosodium glutamate (MSG)— a key ingredient in some Asian foods, salty foods, and processed foods. Skipping meals or fasting also can trigger migraines.

  • Stress.

Stressors at home and work can cause migraine, as well as underlying depression or anxiety.

  • Sensory stimuli.

Bright lights, fluorescent lights, sun glare, tv/movie viewing, and loud sounds unusual smells— including pleasant scents, such as perfume, and unpleasant odors, such as paint thinner and secondhand smoke, can all trigger migraines.

  • Changes in wake-sleep cycle.

Missing sleep or getting too much sleep may serve as a trigger for migraine attacks in some individuals, as can jet lag.

  • Physical factors.

Intense physical exertion may provoke migraines.

  • Changes in the environment.

A change of weather or barometric pressure can prompt a migraine.

  • Medications.

Medications that cause a swelling of the blood vessels can cause migraine.

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(Source: Mayo Clinic and National Headache Foundation)