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Lightning-Induced Migraines

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some migraines may be induced by lightning Andrei Saenco/PhotoSpin

Headaches can range from barely there to chronic and debilitating.

Florida is known as the lightning capital of the United States.

What do these two seemingly unrelated facts have in common?

A new study, mentioned in Popular Science, suggests that those suffering from chronic headaches might want to live somewhere with limited lightning occurrences.

The University of Cincinnati used data provided by the International Headache Society to study a group of participants, all of whom meet the migraine-standards set by the University study, and asked them to record their headaches in a journal for several weeks.

“The study found that the risk of headache increased 31 percent when lightning struck within 25 miles of participants' homes, and the risk of migraine increased 28 percent,” according to researchers.

While other triggers may cause headaches, Fox News also mentioned the significant increase in head pains in those people exposed to lightning.

“After controlling for other aspects of the thunderstorms that could cause headaches – such as temperature, barometric pressure, wind, humidity and rain – they linked lightning to a 13 percent jump in the likelihood of an attack,” said the Fox News article.

The exact cause of the increased likelihood of getting a migraine as a result of lightning is still being researched. However, some researchers suggest that it has to do with the difference in the electrical charges in the air after lightning strikes.

Migraine sufferers seem to be more sensitive to outside influences in comparison to those who do not get migraine headaches.

In the Fox News article, Vincent Martin, who is a headache specialist at the University of Cincinnati said that "When a thunderstorm rolls in, there could be 50,000 lightning strikes within 25 miles [40 kilometers] of your house, you just don't realize it."

Most people will never notice this. But to those who are sensitive to getting migraines, it can be the trigger to yet another painful headache.

Martin said, “When lightning hits the ground, it creates low-frequency electromagnetic waves that induce a magnetic field, which could change the electrical signals in the brain ... Lightning also increases the number of positively charged ions in the air. And the electrical strikes also increase the concentration of the irritant ozone in the air.”

Serotonin, a substance in the body that causes a person to feel content and happy, is impacted by the differences in electrical charges in the air.

When the air is charged with electricity, the body may release serotonin and this creates a signal in the brain saying it is in pain or discomfort.

The above-mentioned reasons, in combination with several other factors, can lead to debilitating and extreme headaches in some.


Ferro, Shaunacy. "Does Lightning Cause Headaches?" Popular Science. Bonnier Corporation, 24 Jan. 2013. Web. 26 Jan. 2013. http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2013-01/does-lightning-cause-heada...

Ghose, Tia. "Does Lightning Cause Migraines?" Fox News. FOX News Network, 25 Jan. 2013. Web. 26 Jan. 2013.

Roach, John. "Key to Lightning Deaths: Location, Location, Location." National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 22 June 2004. Web. 29 Jan. 2013. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/05/0522_030522_lightning.html

Reviewed February 5, 2013
by MIchele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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