Many people with migraine find that certain factors trigger their symptoms. Drinking alcohol is a trigger for some people with migraine. Although any type of alcohol can trigger a migraine, people who experience regular migraine attacks cite red wine as the most frequent culprit.

Research shows that people with migraine may also experience related symptoms during a hangover. Reducing or eliminating alcohol may reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. It may also help eliminate triggers that tend to co-occur with drinking, such as dehydration and sleep deprivation.

Keep reading to learn more about the connection between migraine and headache.

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Migraine is a type of neurological disease. Although genetic factors influence the risk of having migraine, environmental triggers can cause episodes or increase their frequency.

Several studies suggest that alcohol, especially red wine, may trigger migraine attacks.

In a 2018 study involving 2,197 people with migraine, 25% of the participants who had stopped or always avoided drinking did so because alcohol triggered migraine attacks. More than a third of the participants said that alcohol had this effect, with about 78% naming red wine as the most common alcohol trigger.

A 2019 study surveyed people with migraine who drank alcohol. Of the 1,547 participants, 783 said that alcohol was a trigger, and 195 were not sure. People who experienced migraine with alcohol were more likely to have migraine with aura and to experience more migraine days and more frequent attacks. They were also more likely to drink vodka.

A tendency toward migraine may also play a role in hangovers, especially hangovers that cause migraine-like headaches. A 2014 survey of 692 students, 95 of whom had migraine, found that those with migraine were more likely to experience migraine-like symptoms during a hangover. However, these individuals were not more vulnerable to other hangover symptoms.

Alcohol may also trigger other types of headaches. People who experience a headache after drinking should not assume that it is a migraine, especially if they have symptoms consistent with other types of headaches. For example, a tension headache may cause pain in the neck or shoulders.

Migraine causes a specific type of headache that involves neurological symptoms such as light sensitivity and aura. Other types of headaches, including severe headaches, can occur as a result of alcohol consumption.

Hangover headache

A headache is a common hangover symptom. Alcohol can trigger symptoms in those with a headache disorder, but it can also directly cause headaches.

A 2015 study suggests that the inactivity of alcohol dehydrogenase 2, an enzyme that helps break down alcohol, might contribute to hangover headaches. However, the study author also cautions that no single factor causes all hangover headaches.

Learn more about hangover headaches.

Tension headache

A 2016 review notes that alcohol may trigger a tension headache, especially if a person also has migraine. The research found that 21% of people with migraine say that alcohol is a tension headache trigger, compared with just 2% of people without migraine.

Learn more about tension headaches.

Cluster headache

Alcohol may trigger cluster headaches. These headaches cause very intense pain that often primarily affects the area behind one eye. More than half of those who experience cluster headaches say that alcohol is a trigger.

Learn more about cluster headaches.

Dehydration headache

Alcohol increases urination, which can lead to dehydration. Moreover, people who drink alcohol may not drink as much water, intensifying the water loss. Dehydration can cause headaches. It may also trigger headaches related to headache disorders, such as migraine.

Learn more about dehydration headaches.

Most studies point to red wine as a common headache culprit, particularly in people with migraine. These individuals commonly cite wine, especially red wine, as a migraine trigger.

However, a 2012 study contradicts this association. This prospective study looked at migraine diaries spanning up to 90 days. Wine, beer, and spirits did not elevate the risk of migraine with aura, but sparkling wine did.

People who get hangovers that trigger a migraine may wish to avoid alcohol with high levels of congeners. These are substances that the alcohol manufacturing process produces. Some research suggests that congeners play a role in hangovers, although factors such as inflammation also contribute.

Brandy, red wine, and rum have the highest levels of congeners, while gin and vodka contain fewer of these chemicals. However, a 2019 study found higher rates of vodka consumption among drinkers with frequent migraine attacks. The response to alcohol varies from person to person, and there is no alcohol that absolutely will not cause a migraine or other headache.

Preventing migraine begins with identifying and reducing or eliminating common migraine triggers such as alcohol, dehydration, and certain foods. A person should try keeping a migraine diary for a few weeks to observe trends in their headache patterns.

Relaxation techniques may help ease stress-related migraines, and they may make migraine episodes feel less severe when they happen.

People who have frequent migraine attacks may wish to consider migraine prevention medications such as topiramate (Topamax), divalproex (Depakote), or propranolol (Inderal). They can discuss these treatment options with a doctor.

People who get migraine attacks during or after drinking should consider reducing or eliminating alcohol. If they find this too challenging, they may have alcohol use disorder, which warrants treatment.

Learn more about remedies for migraine.

Migraine episodes can be a periodic inconvenience, or they can be debilitating. The most severe migraine attacks may last up to 3 days and make it impossible to do anything. Rarely, a migraine episode may last even longer.

Migraine is complex, and other neurological conditions may cause migraine-like symptoms. For this reason, it is important to see a doctor about migraine symptoms or chronic headaches, with or without drinking. Headaches, including migraine, are treatable with the right combination of medication and lifestyle adjustments.

People who cannot stop drinking should talk with a doctor about treatment for alcohol use disorder, which is a serious but treatable condition.