Migraine Headache FAQs (cont.)
Edward Lubin, MD, PhD
Joseph Carcione Jr, DO, MBA
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
James H Halsey, MD
IN THIS ARTICLE
What causes migraine headaches?
No one fully understands the exact cause(s) of migraine headaches. Many experts think that a migraine begins with abnormal brainstem (a part of the brain) activity that leads to spasm (rapid contraction) of blood vessels in the cerebrum (main part of the brain) and dura (the covering of the brain). The first wave of spasm decreases blood supply, which causes the aura that some people experience. After the first spasm, the same arteries become abnormally relaxed, which increases blood flow and gives rise to migraine headache pain.
Certain chemicals normally found in the brain (namely, dopamine and serotonin) may be involved in causing migraines. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters because they transmit signals within the brain. Neurotransmitters can cause blood vessels to act in unusual ways if they are present in abnormal amounts or if the blood vessels are particularly sensitive to them.
Various triggers are thought to bring about migraine in people who have a natural tendency for having migraine headaches. Different people may have different triggers.
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Although migraine is a term applied to certain headaches with a vascular quality, overwhelming evidence suggests that migraine is a dominantly inherited disorder characterized by varying degrees of recurrent vascular-quality headache, photophobia, sleep disruption, and depression. border=
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