WEDNESDAY, Jan. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Triggers for migraines may not be as strong as widely believed, a new study suggests, and many people may overestimate their importance in spurring the headaches.
The study specifically looked at patients affected by migraine with aura. Auras that accompany migraine include visual disturbances such as flashing lights or wavy lines, according to background information in the study published online Jan. 23 in the journal Neurology.
"People with migraine with aura are told to avoid possible triggers, which may lead them to avoid a wide range of suspected factors," study author Dr. Jes Olesen, of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, explained in a journal news release.
"Yet the most commonly reported triggers are stress, bright light, emotional influences and physical effort, which can be difficult to avoid and potentially detrimental, if people avoid all physical activity," the researcher noted.
The new study included 27 people who experienced migraines with aura. They all reported that migraines had previously been triggered by bright or flickering light, vigorous exercise, or both.
The patients were exposed to these triggers to see if they resulted in a migraine. This included going for an intense run or using an exercise bike for one hour, reaching at least 80 percent of their maximum heart rate. Patients were also exposed to bright, flashing or flickering lights for 30 to 40 minutes.
After each exercise or light exposure session, the patients were monitored for about three hours. Only about one in 10 experienced migraine: 11 percent had a migraine with aura after exercising or being exposed to light, and another 11 percent had a migraine without aura.
"Our study suggests that if a person is exposed to a suspected trigger for three months and does not have a migraine attack, they no longer have to worry about avoiding that trigger," Olesen conclud
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