What are Migraine Symptoms?
A migraine isn’t just an average headache. Migraines are
strong, pounding headaches on one or both sides of the head and typically
include several other symptoms. They’re sometimes preceded by warning symptoms
called aura, which may include flashes of light, visual ‘floaters,’ or tingling
sensations in your arms and legs.
A migraine episode can last for hours or days and can
greatly affect your everyday life. According to the National
Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, roughly 12 percent of the
U.S. adult population gets migraines, which are caused by the activation of
nerve fibers in the blood vessels of the brain.
For ‘classical migraine’ sufferers, each migraine evolves
through four separate stages, each with different symptoms. These stages
- the prodrome (also known as premonitory) stage
- the aura (visual symptoms or tingling)
- the headache or main attack stage
- the postdrome (or recovery) stage
Not all migraine sufferers will experience all of the stages.
The premonitory or prodrome stage typically occurs one to
two days before a migraine begins. Subtle changes can signify that a migraine
is about to come on. Symptoms may include the following:
- mood changes such as anxiety or depression
- craving for sugary foods
- stiff neck
- frequent yawning
The aura stage occurs right before or during a migraine.
Auras are usually visual disturbances but sometimes involve other sensations.
Symptoms build up gradually and last for about 20 minutes to one hour. About 15
percent of people experience aura during a migraine, according to the Migraine Trust.
Symptoms of an aura may include:
- seeing bright spots or flashes of light
- vision loss or seeing dark spots
- tingling sensations in an arm or leg described
as “pins and needles”
- speech problems or inability to speak (aphasia)
- ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
Main Attack Stage
The attack stage includes the headache and other symptoms.
It may last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
During an attack, you might experience the following
- pulsating or throbbing pain on one or both sides
of the head
- extreme sensitivity to light, sounds, or smells
- worsening pain during physical activity
- nausea and vomiting
- abdominal pain or heartburn
- loss of appetite
- pale skin
- blurred vision
Someone with a migraine often needs to lie down in the dark
and quiet to escape from light, sounds, and movement. This is one of the main
differences between migraines and other kinds of headaches. Many people find
that sleeping for an hour or two can be enough to end an attack.
During the recovery stage, also called the postdrome stage,
you may feel tired and drained. The migraine fades slowly. Some people report
feelings of euphoria.
The pain experienced during a
migraine can be severe, often unbearable. The Migraine
Trust finds that depression is three times more
likely to occur in migraine sufferers than in people who don’t get migraines. There
are medications and other treatments available to reduce the frequency and
severity of migraines. If you regularly get migraines, make an appointment with
your doctor to discuss your symptoms, as well as to arrive at a treatment plan.