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Migraine Symptoms: The Stages of a Migraine

Migraine symptoms may vary depending on what stage of the migraine a person is in. A migraine can occur in 4 stages and not all migraine sufferers experience all the stages.

Migraine Symptoms: The stages of a migraine

The Stages of a Migraine

Prodrome

Migraine SymptomsThe prodrome phase of a migraine can occur anywhere from a few hours to even days before the actual attack. This is usually considered as a warning sign for migraine sufferers which alerts them of an impending migraine. Around 30% of people experience the prodrome phase and the symptoms can include:

  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Yawning
  • Increased need to urinate
  • Food cravings
  • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • Phonophobia sensitivity to sounds)
  • Problems in concentrating
  • Fatigue and muscle stiffness
  • Aphasia (difficulty in speaking and reading)
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty in sleeping

Aura

In 20% to 25 % of cases, migraine attacks are preceded by physiological events called auras, which occur due to electrochemical change in the brain. Auras are mainly visual disturbances which may take the form of flashing lights, bright colored lines or can cause a temporary loss of sight. Many migraine sufferers also experience what is known as sensory aura. This is characterized by numbness and tingling on part of the body which slowly moves to different parts of the body. The symptoms of visual and sensory auras usually disappear within an hour before the actual headache.

Migraine Attack

The attack itself is the most debilitating part of the migraine. The headache often occurs on one side of the head and can move to other parts during the course of the migraine. Migraine sufferers often explain the pain to be of different types including:

  • Throbbing
  • Drilling
  • Ice pick in the head
  • Burning

The pain intensity of the headache can often be aggravated by daily routine activities and other physical activities. The headache itself can last up to 72 hours and some common symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Giddiness
  • Insomnia
  • Nasal Congestion
  • Sensitivity to smell
  • Anxiety
  • Depressed mood
  • Photophobia (sensitivity to light)
  • Phonophobia (sensitivity to sound)
  • Neck pain and stiffness

Postdrome

The postdrome, or “migraine hangover” phase occurs almost right after the headache. It may take some migraine sufferers several hours or days to recover from the actual headache and many describe feeling like a zombie in this phase. The symptoms of this phase are often attributed to the medication taken to relieve the migraine. Some common symptoms of the postdrome phase include:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Fatigue
  • Depressed mood
  • Euphoric mood
  • Lack of comprehension

Read More: Migraine Causes and Triggers, How to Prevent Migraines

Which migraine stages do you experience?

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  • Mz

    I experience all migraine stages, and sensitivity to light and vision distortions are the earliest signs. I have been able to prevent/reduce the frequency, severity and duration of migraines by controlling/reducing exposure to known triggers such as glare, blue and green light sources, flicker and loud noise. Considering that my prodrome symptoms are best described by Irlen website about light sensitivity and Irlen visual distortions on YouTube, I tried several versions of pink/orange/purple colour lenses. They enabled me to read in cool white light fluorescent environments (eg stopped visual distortions) but didn’t prevent migraines. Is there any recent research by neuroscientists about symptoms described as Irlen syndrome and migraines?