A migraine is usually characterized by an intense throbbing headache, often on one side of the head and can be followed by nausea and vomiting.
Migraine headaches often begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood while others will only start to experience this type of headache in middle age. Migraines can follow a process through 4 stages — prodrome, aura, attack and postdrome. Not everyone will experience all these stages.
The prodrome is that time a couple of days before the start of a migraine when there might be one or more small changes such as: constipation, depression, diarrhea, food cravings, hyperactivity, irritability or neck stiffness.
Aura and attack are described below
There are two main types of migraine headaches:
The first is the “migraine without aura”.
This is the more common of the two types with 80% of migraine sufferers experiencing the often pounding or pulsing sensation that can stretch from above the eye down to the neck. The pain of this type of migraine can occur on both sides of the head but is usually just on the one side.
There are other symptoms too:
- Extreme sensitivity to light, sounds or smells
- A drooping eyelid on one side of the face with pain
- Any pain can become much worse with any kind of physical movement
This type of migraine was formerly called a common migraine.
The other main type of migraine is the “migraine with aura”.
Those affected can experience pain that is preceded or accompanied by visual or other sensory disturbances.
Such unique symptoms include:
- Partial obstruction of the visual field
- Nnumbness or tingling, or a feeling of heaviness.
- All or any of the symptoms can be more prominent on one side of the body.
- The aura itself can begin up to 72 hours before the pain starts.
A migraine with aura was formerly called a classic migraine.
The final phase — known as postdrome — occurs after a migraine attack, when you may feel drained and washed out, though some people are so relieved that their migraine attack has finished that they feel much better.
The average duration of migraine symptoms is from a few hours to three days. These attacks come daily, weekly, monthly or at longer intervals. In the case of a migraine headache becoming progressively much worse over time, instead of gradually easing, or if a migraine lasts for longer than 72 hours, it is important to seek medical attention quickly as it can be symptom of something much more serious.