Recognizing Migraine Triggers And Auras

Symptoms of migraines, including headache pain and nausea, can be triggered by a wide variety of lifestyle and environmental factors. The relationships among these factors and the vascular events that cause the migraine are not well understood, and migraine patterns differ among individuals. If you monitor your migraine warning signs and their patterns, you can learn to identify your migraine triggers and avoid them.

Migraine Warning Signs and Auras

While a migraine is underway, you may have difficulty focusing on anything other than the pain. But before the symptoms of migraines take hold, many people experience migraine warning signs that can include auras, strange food cravings or mood swings.

If you suffer from the symptoms of migraines, pay attention to the events that precede the migraine by a few hours or a few days. When you start to feel migraine warning signs or auras, take stock of any recent events that fall into the following three categories of common migraine triggers:

  • Environment: Consider your recent exposure to bright or flashing lights, changes in the weather, emotional stress or strong odors. Migraines in women may be linked to menstrual cycles.
  • Food and drink: Alcohol and caffeine can act as migraine triggers for some people. So can aged cheese, chocolate and processed meats.
  • Medication: Have your medications changed recently or have you begun a course of antibiotics? Some antibiotics and some medication discontinuations or overlaps can cause symptoms of migraines.

Drawing a Link between Migraine Triggers and Migraine Warning Signs

If you’re already experiencing auras or symptoms of migraines, you may be unable to avoid the migraine triggers that brought them on. But monitoring and recording environmental, food and medication-related events can help you recognize patterns in your migraine triggers.

Keep a diary or notepad specifically to track your auras and symptoms, and reach for it when you suspect an approaching migraine. Make a note when you encounter common triggers that fail to result in migraines to rule out potential culprits. When you meet with your doctor, bring your records along so that you and your doctor can discuss them.


Heering, J. (2011). Recognizing your migraine trigger will save you a migraine attack. Retrieved January 12, 2011, from

Mayo Clinic. (2010). Migraine basics. Retrieved January 6, 2011, from