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What causes migraine headaches?

Dr. Charisse Litchman

Medically reviewed by Dr. Charisse Litchman, MD, FAHS on August 18, 2020

There are five main theories of what causes migraines:

  1. Changes in the electrical firing from your neurons (your brain cells) called Cortical Spreading Depression
  2. Changes in your serotonin levels
  3. Inflammation around your nerve cells
  4. Changes in the size of the vessels around your brain, called the vascular theory
  5. Release of a chemical called CGRP (calcitonin gene-related peptide)
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