If you’re one of the 37 million women, men, and children in the U.S. who suffer from chronic migraines, you probably don’t want to think about them at all when you’re headache free. But learning about the four stages of migraine helps you know when you’re about to suffer an attack, get treatment early, and prepare for relief.
Chronic migraines are differentiated from headaches by their longevity (an attack that lasts from 4-72 hours without treatment), frequency (at least five attacks), and the simultaneous occurrence of at least one other classic symptom, such as nausea or sensitivity to light. Migraines also tend to affect just one side of your head and occur in four stages, each of which has its own set of symptoms. You may not experience all four stages during each of your migraines, or may have your own individual variations.
The prodrome phase begins hours or even a day or two before your actual headache. This phase is marked by changes in mood or physicality, such as:
- Craving certain foods
- Being thirsty
- Urinating frequently
- Being constipated
- Yawning and feeling sleepy
If you suffer from migraines and experience the symptoms of the prodrome phase, the medical professionals at Rose Family Practice Urgent Care in Vancouver and Battleground, Washington, encourage you to come in for an evaluation and be sure that your medication is up to date.
Only about one in three to four women, men, and children experience an aura phase before the attack. Nevertheless, an aura is a classic sign that you suffer from migraines. Auras tend to affect the nervous system and may manifest in a variety of ways.
You may experience a blind spot or, conversely, flickering or jagged lights that may grow bigger over time. You can also experience vivid hallucinations or “see” memories. Visual auras may make it difficult for you to focus and perform daily activities, such as driving.
Difficulty with language
An aura may also manifest as confusion, particularly verbal confusion. You may have difficulty expressing or understanding spoken or written words. Your ability to concentrate and focus may also be compromised.
Numbness, tingling, and a pins-and-needle sensation on your skin are classic signs of a migraine aura. The sensations may be limited to your face and hands or may spread throughout your body.
A migraine attack lasts at least four hours but, if not treated, could continue for several days. Migraines often start behind the eyes and are limited to one side of your head, but they can also spread or even move. Other symptoms of a migraine attack include:
- Worsening pain when you move or bend over
- Sensitivity to light, sound, or smells
- Nausea or vomiting
Between the pain and accompanying symptoms, you may be unable to function during your migraine attack. The World Health Organization considers migraine to be one of the 10 most disabling illnesses. The American Migraine Foundation estimates that the chronic attacks impair the education, career, and social opportunities for 90% of sufferers.
After your migraine attack subsides, you may experience yet another phase, called the postdrome. Some symptoms of the aura and headache — such as confusion or pain when moving — may persist into the prodrome. You can also feel tired and sluggish for up to a day.
Paying attention to how your migraine develops and what kinds of symptoms you tend to exhibit helps your Rose Family Practice Urgent Care physician develop an individualized treatment plan. In addition to lifestyle changes, they may recommend medications to help manage pain and symptoms and lessen the severity of the attack. You can also keep a diary to help identify triggers — including certain foods, sounds, or smells — that may precede your attacks.
If you have migraines or suspect you might, and need help managing your symptoms, contact us today. Call our Vancouver or Battleground office, or book an appointment online.