Migraine Symptoms, Before and After
Migraine headaches are a source of pain and disability for millions of people around the world. Unlike common tension headaches, migraine disease is a neurological illness that overwhelmingly affects women. Hundreds of headache triggers exist that cause migraines; for this reason, neurologists have a challenge in determining the exact cause of migraine symptoms and which course of medication to prescribe.
Common migraine symptoms include:
- Throbbing head pain
- Nausea, stomach cramping and vomiting
- Visual disturbances, such a flashing lights and blind spots
- Intense sensitivity to lights, scents, and sounds
Migraines occur in four stages
A migraine attack occurs in four stages, according to current scientific research. These are the prodrome phase, the aura, the migraine headache, and the posdrome phase. However, just as migraine headache triggers differ for each patient, the four migraine attack phases don’t necessarily occur in a like manner for all migraineurs. Only about 25-30% of migraine sufferers ever experience aura, a hallucinatory phenomenon that precedes a migraine attack by mere minutes. Many migraine patients never experience the prodrome, aura, or posdrome phases. Occasionally, one may experience only the symptoms of nausea, light sensitivity, and moving spots of light, but none of the head pain; such are Acephalgic Migraines.
• Prodrome Phase: About 80% of migraine sufferers experience an initial prodrome stage, approximately 1-2 days before an attack. Symptoms among migraine patients vary greatly, and many contradict each other. You might feel nauseous and unable to eat, or you might experience strong cravings. Some are high-strung and euphoric, while others might feel depressed and fatigued before a migraine attack. Other typical symptoms are diarrhea, persistent need to urinate, difficulty concentrating, and cold flashes.
• Aura Phase: An aura can occur five to twenty minutes before an attack, giving chronic migraine patients little time to respond. The symptoms of aura mimic stroke, and may last as long as one hour; many migraineurs who are unaccustomed to experiencing aura seek emergency medical care. Symptoms of aura include visual hallucinations, described as moving, streaming, flashing dots of light, which can happen when eyes are either closed or open. Bright, shimmering silhouettes are a common symptom, as is partial blindness in one or both eyes. Other side effects of aura may include partial paralysis, audio and olfactory hallucinations, and temporary loss of speech abilities. Related: Go Ask Alice: Migraine Auras in Wonderland
• Headache Phase: The headache stage what we refer to as the migraine. Consequently, a migraine attack is a headache that includes all four phases. Migraine headaches can last for several days, and characteristically strike only one side of the head, though through the course of an attack the pain may migrate. Migraine head pain is debilitating and further exacerbated by even the slightest movement. Any of the following symptoms may occur during a migraine headache:
- Throbbing, dizzying head pain
- Stomach upset, including nausea, loss of appetite, stomach aches, diarrhea, and vomiting
- Ultra sensitivity to sights, sounds, and smells
- Hot and cold flashes, and perspiring
- Depression, anxiety, and nervousness
- Visual distortions
- Nasal congestion
• Posdrome Phase: Also referred to as the “migraine hangover,” the posdrome phase is the time spent recuperating after an intense migraine attack. Migraine sufferers may require days to recover and get their strength back. During that time, they may feel fatigued, irritable, disoriented, and emotional.