January 30, 2014 12:56 ET

Snow, Sleet and Migraine Headaches

A Sinus Headache Can Make Us Miserable Any Time of Year, but This Year's Polar Vortex Is Creating a Headache Vortex With Migraines in the Forecast

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwired - Jan 30, 2014) -  This winter, we're seeing some of the worst cold spells in a long time with freezing temperatures that are wreaking havoc on our lives. Record lows and the natural phenomenon known as the "polar vortex," have left many of us longing for the days of summer, or at least a one-way ticket to a tropical island. The cold does not feel good on our bodies. And if you suffer from migraines, chances are you know exactly what we mean. 

"There are several triggers that cause a migraine headache to form," says Chicago allergist and headache expert, Brian Rotskoff, MD. "A big one that I see this time of year is the drop in barometric pressure. With the extreme temperatures this season, I'm seeing a lot more migraine headaches in my office."

Changes in the forecast, changes in the body
Whether you realize it or not, changes in the atmosphere can cause changes in your body. A sudden drop in barometric pressure and extremely cold temperatures can cause blood vessels to narrow and blood pressure to climb. Joint pain and arthritis are also affected by weather changes, making your joints feel like tiny weathermen announcing the next storm. In the U.S., 36 million people suffer from migraines. About half of those migraines are triggered by fluctuations in weather.

While the drop in the barometric pressure is a primary migraine trigger, there are many other seasonal triggers you may not realize are causing your headaches. "When looking to treat a migraine, we become investigators," says Dr. Rotskoff. "Each migraine has its own trigger. These vary from person to person and from season to season."

During the winter, migraines can occur more often from the bright light reflecting off snow or from sinus pressure caused by a winter cold or flu. Even an irregular sleep pattern from the shorter daylight hours of the season can cause a migraine.

Migraine headache treatment
Migraines must be accurately diagnosed before they can be treated. Ruling out a sinus infection or a run-of-the-mill headache is the first step. A large percentage of sinus headaches are actually misdiagnosed migraines. According to Dr. Rotskoff there are very specific, but nuanced, differences between the two conditions. Often it takes the careful assessment of a headache expert to isolate the conditions surrounding onset, frequency, and the unique symptoms of each to reach an exact diagnosis.

"This time of year, general providers are so flooded with colds, flus, and sinus infections that it becomes difficult for them to isolate migraine cases," explains Dr. Rotskoff. "The best migraine care is progressive. I work closely with patients to monitor their headaches over a period of time so that we can design the most targeted prevention and treatment strategies."

Mistreating a migraine as a sinus headache will never bring lasting relief. Dr. Rotskoff will determine your migraine triggers and the best migraine treatment for you. Call Clarity Allergy Center today for your comprehensive migraine analysis.

Contact Information

  • Clarity Allergy Center
    Brian Rotskoff, MD
    Medical Director

    Office Locations
    4801 W. Peterson Avenue, Suite #306
    North Chicago, IL 60646

    3000 N. Halsted Street, Suite #611
    Chicago, IL 60657

    125 S. Wilke Road, Suite #100
    Arlington Heights, IL 60005