The weather has been constantly changing in New Jersey. From bitter cold to a 30-degree temperature spike to dry conditions followed by snow and rain, the fluctuations can wreak havoc on people who suffer with migraine headaches.

Winter can wreak havoc on migraine sufferers. (DBDStudio, ThinkStock)

"Migraine sufferers need stability. They need stability in sleep, diet, exercise and hydration and when there is anything that changes stability, headaches can be triggered. Change in barometric pressure is one of those situations where those who suffer can be affected," said Neurologist, Dr. Devin Friedlander, M.D. "Patients who get migraines are very good meteorologists, because they can often tell when something is going on and when the weather is changing. Triggers include changes in humidity, changes in temperature or storms."

The exact causes of migraine headaches are unclear, but patients who suffer generally have hypersensitive brains. Because of that, any little change can trigger a headache.

"We do believe that what brings on a headache is a triggering of the trigeminal nerve, which is a nerve that takes care of facial pain. When that is stimulated, certain chemicals are released that can trigger a migraine.  Those who get migraines are just more sensitive," Friedlander said.

There are two types of migraines.  Some patients have an aura which signals an oncoming migraine. A person may notice visual changes for about 15 to 30 minutes before the headache comes on. That includes flashing lights or colors, trouble seeing or speaking or tingling in the arms or face. That can also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and light sensitivity. The headache can last anywhere from four to 72 hours. The other type is a migraine without aura which is when the headache comes on without any visual changes at the onset.

"It is very hard to control headaches that are brought on by changes in barometric pressure unless you move to a place that has more stability," Friedlander said. "We do ask patients to follow certain guidelines to try to have the best headache hygiene which is to have proper sleep, proper diet, proper exercise and proper hydration."

If you suffer with migraine headaches, it is important to get a diagnosis from your doctor first to make sure there is nothing else causing the headaches. Then decide, with your doctor on the proper course of treatment.

If you plan to seek medical help for migraines, Meridian Health suggests tracking migraine occurrences and the details associated with migraines. Some helpful information to have handy for your doctor:

  • What time of day do the headaches occur?
  • What is the specific location of the headaches?
  • How long does it last?
  • What does it feel like?
  • Have there been any changes in behavior or changes in personality?
  • Is there more stress than usual, or a history of stress?
  • Are you having trouble sleeping?
  • Have you ever had head trauma or a similar injury?