What is a Migraine, What are the 4 stages, My Experience

Definitions and Stage descriptions from the Mayo Clinic Website

What is a MIGRAINE

A migraine headache can cause intense throbbing or a pulsing sensation in one area of the head and is commonly accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.  Migraine attacks can cause significant pain for hours to days and be so severe that all you can think about is finding a dark, quiet place to lie down.  Some migraines are preceded or accompanied by sensory warning symptoms (aura), such as flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling in your arm or leg.  Medications can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. If treatment hasn’t worked for you in the past, talk to your doctor about trying a different migraine headache medication. The right medicines, combined with self-help remedies and lifestyle changes, may make a big difference.

Symptoms: migraine headaches often begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Migraines may progress through four stages, including prodrome, aura, headache and postdrome, though you may not experience all the stages.

Stages of a Migraine

1. Prodrome: One or two days before a migraine, you may notice subtle changes that signify an oncoming migraine, including:

  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Food cravings
  • Hyperactivity
  • Irritability
  • Neck stiffness
  • Uncontrollable yawning

2. Aura: Aura may occur before or during migraine headaches. Auras are nervous system symptoms that are usually visual disturbances, such as flashes of light. Sometimes auras can also be touching sensations (sensory), movement (motor) or speech (verbal) disturbances. Most people experience migraine headaches without aura. Each of these symptoms usually begins gradually, builds up over several minutes, and then commonly lasts for 20 to 60 minutes. Examples of aura include:

  • Visual phenomena, such as seeing various shapes, bright spots or flashes of light
  • Vision loss
  • Pins and needles sensations in an arm or leg
  • Speech or language problems (aphasia)

Less commonly, an aura may be associated with limb weakness (hemiplegic migraine).

3. Attack: When untreated, a migraine usually lasts from four to 72 hours, but the frequency with which headaches occur varies from person to person. You may have migraines several times a month or much less often. During a migraine, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain on one side or both sides of your head
  • Pain that has a pulsating, throbbing quality
  • Sensitivity to light, sounds and sometimes smells
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Lightheadedness, sometimes followed by fainting

4. Postdrome: The final phase, known as postdrome, occurs after a migraine attack. During this time you may feel drained and washed out, though some people report feeling mildly euphoric.

My Experience

Stage one (prodome): Symptoms that I have come to relate to an oncoming migraine include: Hyperactivity, Irritability, Neck stiffness and Uncontrollable yawning.  And now that I think about it I think that constipation  might also happen, but will have to track that maybe.  Any indicator that I need to prepare for a migraine are helpful for both my mental status and for my family.  It helps them prepare for the days ahead if I can tell them I believe a migraine is coming.

Stage two (Aura): I only experience the aura (flashing lights for me) once in a while and it is usually during a really bad migraine.

Stage three (Attack): My migraines last 72 hours and can occur as many as 20 days or more a month (making them chronic migraines).  In general I have stabbing pain behind my right eye brow…but sometimes can occur on my left or both sides at the same time.  During a migraine I always experience, sensitivity to light (photophobia), sensitivity to sound (phonophobia) and a crazy heightened sense of smell.  I often experience nausea (luckily I don’t have vomitting, blurred vision once in a while and lightheadedness.

April 11th

Stage four (postdrome): I am extremely fatigued but have very little head pain.  Although, because I also suffer from New Daily Persistant Headaches (see the next post), I usually have head pain across my forehead, but it tends to be mild.  I also feel a sense of heavy fog that effects me cognitively (or a mild case of aphasia: Aphasia is a condition that robs you of the ability to communicate. It can affect your ability to speak, write and understand language, both verbal and written.) ; for me I can’t find words, get right and left mixed up, use wrong words…have trouble communicating.  It can last a full 24 hours or just for a few hours in the morning before I really get up and around and moving.

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