Migraines: The Symptoms and Signs
You’ve probably heard about migraines and how painful they are. It’s common knowledge that migraines are worse than plain headaches. What most people don’t know is how to identify migraines. In this article, we show you the signs to look out for in order to determine if it’s a migraine or not.
So, is it a headache or a migraine?
There are various types of headaches (others include cluster headaches and tension headaches) but a headache varies slightly from a migraine. In literal terms, a migraine is a worse version of a headache.
A headache becomes a migraine when the following signs and symptoms are seen or experienced.
- Pain in the side of the head
- Increased sensitivity to light, noise and smells
- Constant throbbing, pulsation or pounding in the head
Wondering how do migraines occur?
Read about the causes of migraines here.
Common migraine symptoms and how to identify them
Like any other disease or condition, migraines can be identified by the signs and symptoms that the victim experiences over time. For migraines in particular, the symptoms vary from person to person.
A classic migraine develops and heals in five stages that include the prodromol stage, the aura stage, the headache stage, the ‘relief from headache’ stage and the postdromol stage. Each stage comes with its own symptoms as shown below.
This is also known as the warning stage for migraines. Most migraine victims can know from the symptoms experienced at this stage that a migraine is about to occur. Some of the signs and symptoms here include;
- Loss of appetite
- Increased hunger
- Increased thirst
- Increased sugar cravings
- Swift mood swings from happy to depressed or irritable
- Loss of words/difficulty finding the right words
- Sudden behavioural changes such as clumsiness or sudden hyperactivity
- Body pains and aches
- Failing eye sight
- Increased sensitivity to light and sound
- Muscle tension
- Sudden fatigue
An aura comes next after the early warning signs and is identified by disturbances in a person’s vision. It usually occurs 10-50 minutes before a migraine occurs and may last up to 20-60 minutes in some individuals. Over 25% of migraine victims experience an aura before a migraine occurs. An aura is identified by;
- Visual disruptions in form of starry images, flashing lights or zigzag lines, accompanied by blurred vision, difficulty in focusing, pain the eyes, blind spots (albeit temporary) and tunnel vision.
- Concentration trouble/confusion
- Speech difficulties in some people
- Numbness/tingling/or needles in the leg/thigh
The aura can affect vision in both eyes, although the effect may be felt in only one. After some time, the vision normally goes back to normal.
Soon after the aura comes a throbbing or pulsating headache. This is the actual migraine. It may take up to an hour after the aura occurs for the headache to hit, or less. Either way, headache feels the same in both classical and common migraines.
The most common symptom associated with the headache stage is a throbbing, pounding or pulsating pain that is worsened by any form of movement. Pain may be felt in the following areas;
- In one side of the head or on both sides
- In the eyes
- Behind the eyes
- At the back of the head
The headache stage comes along with symptoms that include nausea and increased sensitivity to light, noise and smell. The headache may last up to 48 hours, but can be relieved faster by laying down in a dark, odourless room.
4. Relief from the headache
During this stage, the headache calms down completely. Different people calm down their migraines in different ways. Some may take medicines or plenty of water, others may sleep through the headache while most tend to let it dissipate on its own.
This stage is marked by poor concentration, nausea, drowsiness, poor appetite and a shift in moods for some people.
Some migraine symptoms may happen in only a few people such as;
- Loss of consciousness
The good news is that migraines can be managed with effective treatment and treated to total healing. In our next article, we explore the effective treatment methods for migraines that you can try.