Is there a link between weather and migraines?

Science and Health

Approximately one million Israelis endure the debilitating effects of migraines, which disrupt their daily routines. Many migraine sufferers claim that extreme weather changes and intense heat act as potent triggers for migraine attacks.

Is there a tangible link between weather conditions and migraines?

Doctor Arie Kuritzky, a neurology specialist, the director of a headache clinic in Ra’anana, and former head of the headache unit at Beilinson Hospital addresses these critical questions.

What Exactly is a Migraine?

Migraine, a common type of headache, afflicts roughly one million Israelis. Typically, it is an inherited condition that predominantly affects women, impacting various brain systems and blood vessels within the brain and its surrounding membranes.

Prominent migraine symptoms include a severe, pulsating headache often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, extreme sensitivity to light, noise, and odors. The pain can persist for four to 72 hours and is usually of moderate to severe intensity, sometimes rendering the sufferer completely incapacitated.

Migraines are generally classified into two primary types. The first is “migraine with aura,” previously known as “classic migraine,” accounting for about 10-15% of cases. It is characterized by a transient neurological disturbance occurring before the onset of the headache, often manifesting as visual disturbances, sensory changes, or even speech difficulties.

The second type is “Migraine without aura,” where the headache commences without preceding neurological symptoms. The intensity of pain and accompanying symptoms can significantly vary between individuals, and often, even within the same person.

Today, numerous triggers and causes of migraine attacks are recognized. During extreme weather conditions, many fear that weather might be another contributing factor to the frequency and intensity of migraines.

Is There a Connection Between Weather and Migraines?

The relationship between weather and migraine attacks has perplexed medical professionals and researchers for years. Many patients contend that weather fluctuations, especially during the summer and the infamous heatwaves in Israel, trigger more frequent and severe migraines.

Recent times have seen unpredictable weather changes, including prolonged and intense heatwaves. These conditions can act as significant “triggers” for migraine attacks among sufferers. A prior Israeli study established a correlation between the occurrence of a heatwave and migraine onset.

Additionally, a study conducted at Beilinson, based on data from the American space agency, detected a link between electromagnetic storms on the sun’s surface and the severity of migraine attacks – phenomena that individuals typically do not associate with their daily lives but can affect them in unexpected ways.

Numerous worldwide studies have measured factors such as temperature, wind speed, humidity, barometric pressure, and rapid weather changes but have failed to provide a definitive correlation with migraine frequency, intensity, or duration. Nevertheless, it is challenging to dismiss any connection between climatic factors and migraine occurrence and severity.

Environmental factors, such as inadequate hydration during the summer, exposure to dry air from air conditioners, and rapid temperature changes upon entering or leaving air-conditioned spaces, can also influence migraine sufferers since the external environment can impact physiological processes in the body.

In summary, weather changes, including temperature fluctuations and extreme heat, can serve as a catalyst for migraine attacks and worsen symptoms for some individuals.

How Can Migraines Be Treated? Is There a Cure?

It is crucial to emphasize that significant progress has been made in treating migraines in recent years, both in managing the attacks and preventing them. Migraines are prevalent in Israel, affecting 16% of the population, underscoring the importance of consulting medical experts for those in need of assistance and treatment.

As previously mentioned, the spectrum of available treatments is extensive, with a notable advancement in preventive drug treatments. Until recently, non-specific drugs like blood pressure medications, antiepileptic drugs, and antidepressants were used. However, a specific biological treatment for migraines has emerged, administered through self-injections once a month. This treatment contains antibodies targeting CGRP, a substance implicated in triggering migraines, as it is associated with inflammation and dilation of blood vessels that cause migraine pain. These antibodies effectively inhibit its activity.

The second approach focuses on managing migraine attacks. Progress in this area includes treatments beyond triptans, which are specific drugs for migraine attacks. Additional treatments also influence CGRP and aid in the management of migraines. Various treatment aids for both acute and preventive care are available, often with minimal side effects and proven effectiveness in some cases.

It is important to recognize that each patient’s experience with migraines differs. Proper consultation with the attending physician is essential to ensure the effectiveness of treatment.

Furthermore, lifestyle choices play a significant role. Medical recommendations for migraine sufferers include maintaining a balanced lifestyle, practicing good sleep hygiene, adopting a healthy diet, and paying extra attention to physical activity. These lifestyle adjustments can greatly alleviate migraine symptoms and reduce their frequency.

When Should You Seek Medical Treatment?

In general, it is advisable to seek medical attention when experiencing headaches or unusual symptoms. Consult your family doctor or a neurologist, who can determine if your symptoms align with typical migraine characteristics. Some individuals experience infrequent migraine attacks and find relief with over-the-counter pain relievers, allowing them to manage their condition. However, for those with more frequent, severe, and prolonged migraines, it is crucial to reach out to medical professionals to explore and tailor the most effective treatment options.

In conclusion, while indulging in summer recreation, it’s essential to recognize that weather can influence our health, particularly for those enduring migraines. Fortunately, there’s no need to endure unnecessary suffering, as modern medicine offers a diverse range of treatments that significantly enhance the quality of life for individuals afflicted by migraines.