What causes your headaches? Some people can get headaches from changing weather conditions. Learn more about the relationship between neurological conditions and weather changes.
The next day, it is sunny and 70 degrees. Next day, it’s 70 degrees and sunny. Some people can get migraines and headaches when the weather changes dramatically. But is there any correlation? Does the change in pressure affect headaches or other neurologic conditions?
Neurologist Elizabeth Hartman MD helps people with neurological disorders. She focuses on headaches and migraines, as well as multiple sclerosis. She also helps patients with spasticity and myasthenia, as well as neuropathy. All of these conditions can be affected by heat or cold.
Dr. Hartman says that MS patients experience weather-related changes in their symptoms. Heat, in particular, can temporarily worsen old symptoms. This is called Uhtoff’s phenomena. “Before CT scanners and MRIs became available, MS diagnosis could be confirmed by evaluating the worsening symptoms of patients after a hot shower.”
Some people with neuropathy also experience an intolerance of heat. Patients with epilepsy may experience an increase in seizures if they have a fever and an infection, but the weather has no impact. Heat can increase myasthenia and cold may improve myasthenia. Spasticity caused by neurological disorders like cerebral palsy or MS, or spinal cord injury can cause muscle stiffness.
The barometric pressure is the weight of air. It drops when the weather becomes humid and rises when the weather turns dry. It can cause headaches and chemical imbalances when the barometric changes. A change in weather can worsen a headache or migraine.
Dr. Hartman says that many people with headaches believe that weather changes can trigger headaches. This is especially true for migraine sufferers. The most common weather trigger is a rapid change in barometricpressure with storms. Bright sunlight, cloudy weather and extreme temperatures are also triggers.
Weather changes or weather-related triggers may also cause an imbalance of brain chemicals such as serotonin. This can lead to a migraine. Other triggers are dry air, high humidities, wind, and sun glare.
Dr. Hartman explains migraine as a neurological disorder which often runs in families. Having one parent with migraine is associated to a 50% chance that you will also suffer from migraines. Hormones can also affect headaches. This is especially true for women.
Dr. Hartman says that estrogen fluctuations can cause headaches for women. These headaches are called menstrual migraines. Menstrual migraines are headaches that occur around the time of menstruation and may not respond well to medication. Many women experience migraines during pregnancy, and they improve significantly after menopause.
All of the 150 types of headaches are treatable. Tension headaches range in severity from mild to moderate. Migraines affect at least one in ten people and can be disruptive to daily activities. They are sometimes worsened by light or sound.
Patients who suffer from migraines and feel that the weather is a trigger should speak to their doctor. Prescription medications can be used to treat severe headaches that don’t respond well to over-the counter medications.
“If you are struggling, it may be beneficial to see a headache medicine expert to help you control your symptoms,” says Hartman. Nebraska Medicine is home four of the seven headache medicine specialists certified in Nebraska. We provide comprehensive headache care using a multidisciplinary approach with neurologists and pain medicine providers as well as anesthesiologists and neurosurgeons.
At the first sign of headaches or migraines, rescue medication should be taken. Patients can reduce the severity of migraines and headaches by drinking enough water, sleeping enough, eating healthy food, monitoring weather changes, and avoiding triggers. Keep a headache or a migraine journal to help you notice correlations between weather changes and headache symptoms.
Do you suffer from neurological conditions? We can help! Give us a call at 800.922.0000 or visit NebraskaMed.com/Neurological-care.
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