Migraines are intense pounding headaches that can last hours and even days. They can be extremely debilitating and can occur once or twice a year or as often as every day for some. There are 5 common stages of a migraine headache.
This stage is sometimes described as the warning stage where physical and mental changes occur. This stage can begin a few hours or days before the peak of the migraine. Symptoms that occur during this stage include:
- feeling tired
- excessive yawning
- food cravings
- mood changes
- feeling thirsty
- neck stiffness
- increased urination.
It is estimated that 60-80% of those with recurrent migraines will experience the premonitory stage at least sometimes. These are also associated with more severe attacks.
The next stage, Aura, is experienced by about a quarter of migraine sufferers. Aura stage symptoms are neurological and include:
- visual disturbances like dark spots, colored spots, stars, and zigzag lines
- numbness or pins and needles
- dizziness or vertigo
- speech and hearing changes
Some rarer symptoms are memory changes, feelings of fear and confusion, paralysis, and fainting.
These symptoms can occur before or during the main attack stage and last between 5 and 60 minutes. Aura symptoms can also occur with the headache often referred to as a ‘silent migraine.’
Main Attack Stage
The main attack stage involves a moderate to severe throbbing headache that is made worse by movement.
Nausea and vomiting are common during this stage. Sensitivity to light, sound, and movement is also very common.
Most migraine attacks fade away slowly, but some may stop suddenly if the person with the migraine falls sick or cries a lot.
Many people find that sleep can help end an attack even if it is for just an hour.
This final stage of the migraine attack lasts hours to days of feeling fatigued.
Symptoms might mirror those of the premonitory stage for example in the premonitory stage you may lose your appetite but during the postdrome stage, you may be very hungry.