Water and Migraines

Water and Migraines

Migraines affect people of all ages

Migraines affect people of all ages in different environments and they can be quite unpredictable. The strength and length of time a migraine remains are different for each person. Symptoms of a migraine include: throbbing pain behind both eyes or on one or both sides of the head; nausea; vomiting; sensitivity to light, moving light and/or sound and visual effects and/or auras which can appear as colored spots of light; and in some cases debilitating pain all over the head.

According to the professionals at the Mayo Clinic, Migraines can begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood and there are four stages during a migraine attack: Prodrome, Aura, Attack and Post-drome. But not everyone who gets migraines experiences these four stages.


Four Stages of Migraine Headaches

A day or two before a migraine, there may be subtle warnings that it’s coming which include: constipation; changes in mood; cravings for specific foods; neck stiffness; thirst or urination increase; and recurrent yawning.

Auras can occur before or during migraines and usually include visual symptoms but may also involve other symptoms. Auras are the result of changes in the nervous system which can occur as a slight effect but may build up and last from several minutes to 60 minutes. For example, a migraine aura may contain: visual effects such as shapes or bright light flashes; vision loss; prickly sensations in an arm or leg; weakness or numbness in the face or on one side of the body; speech difficulty; hearing music or noises; uncontrollable jerking or other unexpected movements.

During a migraine attack which may last 72 hours if untreated, there may be pain on one side of the head or on both sides. The throbbing and pulsing of this pain is usually persistent. There is generally a sensitivity to light, sound, smell, and touch. In some people, nausea and vomiting occur but not in everyone. The frequency that a migraine occurs varies with each person. They might occur once a month or many times in a month.

After a migraine, a feeling of being drained, confused, and having brain fog or a lack of concentration may occur.


Unmanageable Migraines

It’s important to be aware if the characteristics of your migraines change and to also keep track of how you treat your migraines or which approach works the best in managing them. If your migraines become unmanageable with respect to pain, then seek medical attention immediately. If your migraines suddenly change in intensity, then it may indicate a more serious medical condition which needs attention.

If you experience the following symptoms, then something more serious may be happening and it’s advisable either go to your doctor or to Emergency:

  • A headache that comes on abruptly like a thunderclap
  • A headache accompanied by a fever, stiffness in the neck, mental confusion, seeing double, weakness, numbness and speech impediment
  • A headache that is chronic which intensifies after coughing, exertions, straining, or sudden movement
  • New headache pain emerges after the age of 50


Causes of Migraines

Though there is still research being done on migraines, environmental indicators and genetics are possible causes. Researchers are also investigating the serotonin levels in migraines which may indicate brain chemical imbalances.  When the brain’s chemicals are imbalanced, it leads to changes in the brainstem and interactions with a major pain pathway, the trigeminal nerve. Researchers also discovered another neurotransmitter that may be a genetic factor in migraine pain, calcitonin, a gene-related peptide (CGRP).


What Triggers a Migraine?

Triggers for migraines vary with each person and concurrently, some people don’t get triggers before a migraine emerges. Then there are risk factors such as family history, age, gender, and hormonal changes. There are also risks if you take too many painkillers for more than 15 days a month according to the Mayo Clinic where medication overuse can actually stop relief and instead cause a migraine.

Some triggers for migraines:

  • Drinks – coffee, alcohol and wine
  • Stress – at work or home including computer terminal stress
  • Food – chocolate, aged cheeses, salty or processed foods
  • Food additives – monosodium glutamate (MSG) or aspartame
  • Sensory stimuli – includes bright lights, loud sounds, perfume, smoke,
  • Weather fluctuations – sudden barometric pressure drops and increases with respect to weather conditions
  • Hormonal shifts especially in women due to changes in estrogen before or during menstrual cycles, during pregnancy or menopause
  • Sleep variations  insomnia or inadequate sleep, too much sleep or jet lag
  • Physical effects – physical exertion of any kind
  • Medications – Oral contraceptives and vasodilators (i.e. nitroglycerin)

Check out the various medical diagnosis and treatment options on the Mayo Clinic website.

In the article 18 Signs You’re Having a Migraine on Health.com, there is a list detailing a few more symptoms that occur with migraines.


Dehydration Headaches and Migraines

In Medial News Today’s article How to recognize a dehydration headache, it suggests that some people may experience dehydration headaches which can be avoided. A dehydration headache is also referred to as a secondary headache where not enough fluid is in the body. These types of headaches can be mild or develop as a migraine. This is why when a person has a migraine, drinking water will help.

If the body doesn’t have enough fluids and/or electrolytes, then function is impeded throughout the body. Every time a person performs activities, water is lost. In some cases, water cannot be replenished fast enough in the body so that’s when it becomes dehydrated. According to this article How to recognize a dehydration headachedue to this type of depletion, the brain can shrink temporarily as a result of fluid loss meaning, the brain pulls away from the skull causing a dehydration headache. When you drink water and replenish the body, the brain returns to normal.

A dehydration headache is different than a sinus headache or a migraine in that the headache pain can be felt at the front, back, side, or on the head overall. Other symptoms of dehydration may occur with this headache where signs are given that it’s time to drink some water. These symptoms may include: extreme thirst; reduced urination; dark yellow urine; confusion or brain fog; dizziness; fatigue; dry, sticky mouth; loss of skin elasticity; low blood pressure and increased heart rate. Additional symptoms that some people may receive may be: lack of sweating; sunken eyes; fever; delirium; unconsciousness; and shriveled or wrinkled skin.

The body is balanced when the liquid ingested into the body is expelled out of the body in approximately the same quantity. If you drink more, you urinate more, if you drink less and are dehydrated, you urinate less. Illness can increase the risk of dehydration causing headaches when you have diarrhea, vomiting, fever, excess urination or when you experience extreme sweating from heavy exercise.


Dehydration Risks

Although people of all ages can experience headaches from dehydration, some people have a higher risk. These higher risk people are: people who live in higher altitudes; babies and young children; elderly; people with chronic illnesses like IBD, diabetes, and kidney disease; people who take medications which increases urination; athletes who perform endurance exercises; people who live in very tropical climates.


Treating Mild to Severe Dehydration and Preventing a Dehydration Headache

For a mild dehydration headache, it’s advisable according to this Medical News Today article How to recognize a dehydration headache to increase your water or other fluid intake; replenish lost electrolytes; decrease exercise or physical movement and avoid the heat to cease sweating. Although you may take this advice and follow these steps if you have a dehydration headache, it may take a while to relieve a dehydration headache so it’s best to stay hydrated at all times.

When treating a headache that may be caused by severe dehydration due to vomiting or diarrhea, medical attention should be sought immediately. Severe dehydration may lead to kidney damage, seizures, and shock so this is when a medical professional has to administer an IV and with saline solution.

The best way to avoid both a mild and severe dehydration headache is to not get dehydrated in the first place. Some of the proactive solutions are obvious and some not so obvious: drink enough fluid; eat foods that have more fluid content like fruits and vegetables; drink fluid throughout the day rather than all at once; drink more water during exercise or in hot weather to replenish the bodily fluids as a result of sweating; be aware of and treat hidden causes of dehydration like fevers and infections; avoid beverages that cause dehydration like too much coffee or alcohol; and reduce laborious activity during heatwaves or if you’re feeling unwell.

Regardless of whether you get a migraine or a headache caused from dehydration, the solution starts with keeping hydrated and be aware of how much fluid you are putting into your body and how much is being expelled. If the migraine or dehydration becomes too severe for you to manage, seek medical attention right way before it causes more serious complications or if you suspect that your symptoms are the result of another hidden condition that is undiagnosed.



Mayo Clinic

Medical News Today
How to recognize a dehydration headache

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