Migraine aura and prodrome are both warning signs that tell you that a migraine is about to attack. But not all migraine sufferers experience migraines with aura, and sometimes, the symptoms of prodrome are hard to detect. Here are some helpful clues to help you tell the difference between the migraine aura and prodrome stages.
Migraines come in stages
Migraine disorder is a neurological illness that causes a series of debilitating ailments, including migraine headaches, nausea, vomiting, and intense fatigue. A “migraine attack” refers specifically to the progression of these symptoms, from beginning to end. While a migraine attack can last for hours or days, the symptoms of migraine may vary for each patient.
Migraines occur in four stages- The first stage, prodrome, occurs at the onset of a migraine attack; next, migraine aura, which is followed immediately by severe headache. Finally, the postdrome (recuperation) phase marks the tail end of a migraine attack.
About 30% of people who get migraines experience a pre-headache phase known as prodrome. A prodrome can occur several days, or just one day, before any other migraine symptoms. This is an important distinguishing factor between migraine aura and prodrome, the latter of which allows more time to utilize preventative strategies to halt oncoming migraine attacks.
Migraine trigger avoidance, relaxation techniques, and natural vitamins, minerals, and herbs that benefit migraine patients are most effective during the prodrome stage of migraines.
Symptoms of migraine prodrome include:
- Unusual changes in appetite
- Unusual food cravings
- Sudden exhilaration or fatigue
- Swift mood changes
- Stomach problems
- Neck stiffness
Migraines with aura
Not all people experience both migraine aura and prodrome ; about 20% of migraine sufferers receive disturbing stroke-like symptoms associated with migraine aura shortly before the headache strikes. Unlike the prodrome phase, which can happen several days before a migraine strikes, migraine aura occurs suddenly. People who experience migraines with aura notice the warning signs mere minutes before they start to experience excruciating headache and sharp eye pain.
During this time, abortive medications for migraines are sometimes helpful, but not always.
Symptoms of migraine aura include:
- Visual distortions, including zigzagging lines, shifting crescent shapes, bright flickering lights, peripheral vision loss, double vision, or empty voids
- Disorientation, sudden inability to comprehend or communicate
- Distorted sense of spatial awareness and time
- Olfactory hallucinations, including toxic or burnt paper scents
- Temporary partial paralysis
- Sudden speech impairments, including slurring
- Ear ringing
- “Pins and needles” sensation in the hands, feet, or head
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