Migraine Symptoms & Tips: The Signs and Stages

Headache like no other? If you’re suffering from pain that’s impossible to forget, it’s likely that you are suffering from a migraine. A migraine can happen quickly and the discomfort builds with each minute that passes you by. When the pain strikes, it’s all you can think about. So, let’s explore the signs and symptoms.

How a migraine works:
What exactly causes a migraine? The precise cause is unclear1 and for each individual person, the triggers can vary. During a migraine, the tissue surrounding your brain will become swollen and the surrounding blood vessels will expand. This causes intense pressure, an aching sensation and pain.2

Migraines vs. tension headaches:
A migraine is commonly misdiagnosed as a tension headache. It’s important to know the difference between these two different types of pain; that way, you can quickly and efficiently seek the relief you want.

The best way to tell the difference between these two types of headaches:

  • If your headache contains a moderate level of pain that is dull and pressure-like, then it’s likely a tension headache.3
  • If your headache feels more like pounding or throbbing and you’re experiencing symptoms such as sensitivity to light or nausea, you may be experiencing a migraine.

Stages of a migraine:
Understanding the stages of a migraine can also help you recognize an attack. For most people, a migraine can be divided into the following four stages:

  • The warning phase can occur hours or days before the onset of the headache.4 This phase is generally common in people that experience frequent migraines. Within this phase, it’s common to feel irritable, depressed, tired and to have excessive yawning or a loss of appetite.
  • The aura phase. This stage doesn’t occur for everyone; in fact only 1 in 4 people with migraines will have aura5. A migraine with aura will have additional symptoms (which typically occur 30 minutes or less before the headache).6 Auras vary with each individual person, but symptoms typically include: vision loss or changes in vision (such as seeing flashing or shimmering lights), hallucinations, and feelings of numbness or muscle weakness.7
  • The headache phase. This is when your migraine will strike in full force. The pain will likely occur in the front of the head on one or both sides of the temples. The sensations can be intermittent and throb, or they can also be steady.8

    Unfortunately, this phase can last anywhere from four to 72 hours. Throughout this timeframe, the pain is often accompanied with nausea, irritability, dizziness and extreme sensitivity to light, sound or smells. During this phase, you’ll be most comfortable relaxing in a cool, dark and quiet place.

  • The resolution phase. The good news is that when you reach this stage, the worst part of your migraine is behind you. Thankfully, your headache will gradually begin to fade. During this phase, it’s common to feel tired, irritable and depressed. You might also have difficulty concentrating.

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