Research recently published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology suggests that triggers for migraine with aura may not be as strong as some people believe.
The study looked at 27 people with migraine with aura, who identified bright or flickering lights and or strenuous exercise as previous triggers. During the study, participants used an exercise bike, or ran intensely, reaching at least 80% of their maximum heart rate. They were also exposed to flashing, bright lights or flickering lights. Afterwards, they were asked to report migraine or migraine with aura symptoms. Eleven percent of the participants reported migraine with aura after the exercise and light exposure, and another 11% of the participants said they experienced migraine without aura. None of the people in the study said they developed a migraine with aura after light exposure alone.
Study author Jes Olesen, MD, with the University of Copenhagen, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology said, “people with migraine with aura are told to avoid possible triggers, which may lead them to avoid a wide range of suspected factors. 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. 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.”
Peter Goadsby, MD, PhD, with the University of California, San Francisco, and a member of the American Academy of Neurology observed in an accompanying editorial that the study raises questions about migraine triggers. “Perhaps rather than triggers, these behaviors are a brain-driven response to the early phases of the migraine itself. Maybe people are driven to exercise as an early symptom and the association with light is simply the sensitivity to light that occurs with the attack itself?” Science Daily 1-23-13