According to the American Migraine Foundation, every migraine has four distinct stages: prodrome, aura, headache, and postdrome. These stages depend on the type of migraine headache you have and the moment you're having an attack. Sometimes you'll experience every symptom listed, while other times you may only feel migraine pain.
The first stage is the prodrome. This pre-headache phase marks the beginning of the migraine, and it usually lasts a couple of days. Aura is a unique phase that some people with migraines don't experience at all. It doesn't last for more than an hour, but it can appear together with the next phase. The headache stage is the main phase of a migraine attack, which can last up to 72 hours. Finally, postdrome, also known as the “migraine hangover", signals the ending of a migraine headache.
Take the symptoms of the prodrome phase as warning signals, so you know that the migraine is coming. Keeping a migraine journal could help you keep track of your symptoms. It can also help you identify and avoid migraine triggers, so you can prevent the migraine's further development.
Prodrome symptoms may include:
- Mood swings
- Increased anxiety
- Troubles with sleep, concentration, and focus
- Sensitivity to light, sound, or strong smells
- Muscle stiffness
- Food cravings
What Do You See When You Get a Migraine?
If you don't notice the prodrome stage, the symptoms of migraine aura can warn you of the incoming attack. Around 25-30% of people with migraines may have an aura about an hour before the head pain, according to the research of the American Migraine Foundation. Others experience migraines without aura (also known as common migraines). A small percentage of people may experience a silent migraine (only aura symptoms without head pain).
Symptoms that accompany migraine aura include:
- Blind spots
- Blurry vision
- Vision loss
- Seeing zigzag patterns or flashing lights
- Audiovisual hallucinations
- Numbness or tingling sensation
- Trouble speaking
- Increased sensitivity to light, touch, smell, and sound
Besides sensory symptoms, you could also experience dizziness, neck pain, nausea, confusion, and weakness. As you can see, a lot of aura symptoms can indicate serious health conditions like a stroke or retinal tear. It's crucial to visit a doctor to rule out other serious threats and get a migraine diagnosis along with additional medical advice.
What Are the Causes and Triggers of a Migraine?
What can cause migraines is yet to be determined. Some doctors think they're caused by abnormal brain activity that's affecting nerves, chemicals, and blood vessels in the brain. This abnormal activity is in correlation with genetics, so some people are more prone to migraine attacks than others. Environmental factors and hormonal changes can also cause a migraine headache. These external factors are also known as migraine triggers.
While triggers are very individual because each person experiences migraine headaches differently, it can be helpful to know the most common triggers, so you can avoid them. Better yet, by journaling, you'll be able to identify your unique triggers.
The most common migraine triggers are:
- Stress and tension
- Lack of sleep
- Specific foods
- Bright light and sound
- Computer or phone screen
- Strong smells
- Certain types of medicines
As you can see, a lot of things can trigger migraines, so it's important to keep track of your habits and make healthy living choices. One of the most efficient ways to prevent migraines is to find your triggers and avoid them.
Hormonal changes could also trigger headaches. Research shows that women are more likely to experience migraines when the levels of hormones in their bodies change. Women often experience a special type of migraine headache called menstrual migraines.
How Long Do Migraines Last For?
The duration of a migraine attack depends on the migraine type and the symptoms you have. It could last for hours or even days. The frequency of headaches also varies. While some people have migraines once a month/year, others might experience headaches for more than 15 days a month. If you're having frequent migraines, you should definitely visit a doctor because you may have a chronic migraine condition.
While most migraines last a couple of hours, severe ones could last for days if untreated. The migraine stages vary in length. Some can last for longer, and some might not appear at all.
Worst case scenario: the prodrome stage can last up to a couple of days (but it's usually a couple of hours). The aura phase could last an hour (but sometimes it's over after 5 minutes). The headache phase can even go on for 3 days and the postdrome stage for 1-2 days. Everything depends on the symptoms and the treatment you try.
The symptoms of the headache phase may include:
- Pain on one side or both sides of the head
- Throbbing or pulsating pain
- Shifting pain from one side of the head to the other
- Worse pain when being physically active
- Pain around the eyes, in the sinus area, or the jaw
- Sensitivity to light, sound, smell, or touch
- Nausea and vomiting
- Neck pain and muscle stiffness
- Blurred vision or blind spots
- Dizziness and vertigo
The postdrome phase includes symptoms like:
- Mood changes
- Loss of appetite
- Increased sensitivity
- Inability to focus
Migraine treatments depend on the symptoms you have. So, if you're experiencing less severe symptoms, you'll be able to get migraine relief faster. Some treatment methods might provide temporary relief while others can stop the migraines altogether.
Why Have I Suddenly Started Getting Migraines?
Changes in lifestyle or hormonal disbalances can often cause migraine headaches. While some people might react to bright lights, for example, others can be triggered by certain foods. Each body is different, so think about the changes in your environment that could affect the frequency of your headaches.
Start journaling about your migraine headaches. Write about what you do, eat, drink, etc. When you have a headache, take notes of all the symptoms and describe your experience in detail. This will help you notice patterns, catch warning signals, and connect certain activities with the cause of your migraine headaches.
Make sure to bring your journal when you visit your doctor because it contains valuable information useful for getting a diagnosis and necessary treatments. Medical advice and care are crucial for reducing the frequencies of your migraines.
At What Age Do Migraines Stop?
Migraines are more common during your 30s, but even people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s get these types of headaches. They do improve as you get older, especially for women. After menopause, hormonal factors don't cause migraine headaches, so a lot of women stop having them.
With age, some people may experience fewer and less painful migraine headaches. The headache may not last as long, either. Early management of migraines can lead to a complete disappearance of migraine headaches in later life! New and improved treatments may also help. Make sure to keep an eye on medical and health-related news, so you can be up-to-date with the latest medical discoveries.
Unfortunately, people with a family history of migraine sufferers are more likely to continue having attacks even when they're older. That's because a lot of migraines are hereditary. You may influence the symptoms, though, and make them easier to handle.
You need to learn to live with your migraine headache so that you can manage it successfully. Get a migraine treatment plan and follow it. Don't take unprescribed medicines because that can lead to medication overuse. Instead, try alternative natural treatments and preventers.
Try to lead a healthy lifestyle. Eat nutritious and balanced meals, get enough exercise, quit smoking and drinking, manage your stress, and practice self-care. Your body and your health will thank you when you're going through the next migraine attack because your symptoms might be easier to handle. For example, you may feel the familiar pain on one side of the head, but it might not last as long or be so severe.
When Should I Be Worried About a Migraine?
Migraines cause severe headache pain, but they're often not dangerous for your general health. You can often take care of your migraines on your own with medicines, preventive treatment, or different devices. However, some migraine headaches require a visit to the hospital.
Find a doctor specialized in neurology and schedule an appointment at the clinic if your headaches:
- Become frequent
- Won't pass without painkillers
- Are accompanied by fever, double vision, numbness, slurred speech, or stiff neck
- Cause insomnia
- Come suddenly and won't stop after several hours
- Change their usual development pattern
When you learn to recognize the warning signs, you'll be able to react on time with various treatment methods. In most cases, catching a headache early may help prevent further development. A lot of people use the Migraine Stopper to prevent migraines at an early stage. Just a few pumping cycles can get rid of your migraines for good.