Jan. 25, 2000 ST. PAUL, MN – Migraine sufferers can look to the sky as a possible cause for the onset of their headaches. A study in the January 25 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found Canadian Chinook winds can trigger migraines in some people. The Chinooks are warm westerly winds specific to Alberta, Canada.
"The study shows a definite correlation between Chinooks and migraine in some sufferers," said neurologist and study author Werner Becker, MD, of the University of Calgary. "Previous studies on various weather triggers for migraines show conflicting results. Chinooks are ideal for studying a link between a weather change and migraine because they have a definite time of onset and are a profound weather change."
The study looked at diaries of 75 migraine patients, ages 16 to 65, from the University of Calgary Headache Research Clinic and compared them to Chinook weather patterns. The patients’ diaries record the severity and time of day of headaches. Of the 75 patients studied, 32 were more likely to have migraines during Chinook weather conditions than on days without Chinooks.
"Identifying trigger factors for migraine, like the Chinooks, can help neurologists treat, manage and learn more about the causes of migraine," said Becker. "The more triggers we can identify, the closer we get to preventing the onset of migraine. Patients could treat migraines before they start, similar to those patients who suffer from menstrual migraine."
Each day over a two-year period was classified as a pre-Chinook, Chinook and non-Chinook day according to weather conditions. Scientists found 17 of the 32 patients were more likely to get migraines on pre-Chinook days. During Chinook days, scientists found 15 patients were more likely to suffer from migraines on high wind days when the wind velocity was greater than approximately 24 mph. Only two patients were more likely to get migraines under both weather conditions.
"This indicates the two weather conditions work separately from one another and trigger migraines by different mechanisms," said Becker. "How Chinooks trigger migraines is still unknown."
Scientists also found that older patients were more likely to suffer migraines on high wind Chinook days than younger patients.
"A better understanding of migraine triggers is crucial to identifying preventative strategies and enhancing people’s feelings of control," writes neurologist Richard Lipton, MD, in an accompanying editorial.
"Most people believe weather affects their health," said Becker. "Overall, approximately 50 percent of migraine sufferers indicate certain weather conditions may precipitate migraine attacks. This study validates what patients have been saying all along."
A neurologist is a medical doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 16,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research.
For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit its Web site at www.aan.com. For online neurological health and wellness information, visit NeuroVista at www.aan.com/neurovista.
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