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11th Mar 2024

Why do some people suffer with migraines and others don’t?

Jody Coffey


There are two types of people: Those who get migraines and those who don’t

Today, I woke up with the most unholy of migraines, so, naturally, all I’ve done since then is research ways to remedy it.

During my search, I also found myself questioning why half of the population suffer from migraines and the other half remain unscathed and will never understand the impact of them.

These extreme headaches have different levels of severity for each person and they can be triggered out of nowhere, by a multitude of different things.

If you suffer with them and feel helpless, asking ‘why me?’ we might have some of the answers for you.

Credit: Getty



While more research is needed to fully understand what causes migraines, some studies suggest there could be a heredity factor. Research has even identified some genes associated with migraines, meaning they may run in families.

Scientists are, however, not sure why these genes impact some people more than others, according to Family Doctor.

The American Migraine Foundation reports that having one parent who suffers from migraines will give you a 50 per cent chance of the same.

If both parents are sufferers, then your chances of experiencing them increase to 75 per cent.

Women are also more likely than men to have migraines, of course….

Most people will experience their first migraine during adolescence, but they can start at any age, usually before the age of 40.

Serotonin or oestrogen levels

Serotonin is a chemical in our bodies responsible for functions such as mood, sleep, digestion, nausea, wound healing, bone health, blood clotting and sexual desire.

Some theories suggest that changes in these levels may contribute to the onset of migraines.

When serotonin levels are high, blood vessels shrink. When serotonin levels fall, the blood vessels swell.

This swelling can cause pain or other problems.

Similarly, oestrogen levels naturally vary over the life cycle of a woman, increasing during their fertile years and decreasing afterwards.

Women of childbearing age also have monthly fluctuations in oestrogen levels.

Migraines in women are often linked with these changing hormone levels and may explain why women are more likely to have them than men.

Credit: Getty

Things that can trigger migraines

Ultimately, migraines seem to be caused by a combination of factors: genetic, environmental, and lifestyle.

Some things we can’t help, but knowing what can trigger a migraine can help to identify what may be uniquely triggering them for you.

These can range from different foods and drinks to sensory overload.

  • Certain foods and drinks may trigger migraines, as well as dehydration and dieting or skipping meals.
  • Hormone changes: Women may get ones related to their menstrual cycles, menopause, or using hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy.
  • Stress can trigger migraines.
  • Sensory overwhelm: Loud sounds, bright lights or strong smells may bring on migraines.
  • Certain medicines may be causing migraines. If you think yours might be caused by the medicine you are taking, you should talk to your doctor.

Keeping a migraine journal can also be useful for understanding the triggers.