Migraine is a neurological syndrome with a plethora of debilitating symptoms, including severe headaches, nausea, and altered bodily perceptions. Typically, a migraine headache lasts anywhere from four to 72 hours, and consists of four stages.
Stages of Migraine
• Prodrome: Prodromal symptoms occur in 40-60% of migraineurs (migraine sufferers); this phase consists of altered mood, irritability, depression (or euphoria), sleepiness, food cravings, stiff muscles, and diarrhea (or constipation).
• Aura: Twenty to 30% of migraineurs suffer from migraine with aura, a focal neurological phenomenon that can precede or accompany an attack. Visual aura is the most common neurological symptom; this involves a visual disturbance consisting of flashes of white, black, or multicolored lights. Some patients experience blurred or cloudy vision. Other symptoms include auditory or olfactory hallucinations, temporary dysphasia, vertigo, tingling or numbness of the face and extremities, and sensitivity to touch.
• Pain: Pain can be moderate to severe and usually occurs unilaterally (on one side of the head; hence the etymology of the term “migraine,” which derives from the Greek “hemicrania,” or “half” and “skull”). Other common symptoms during this phase are sensitivity to light, sound, noise, motion, and smells, as well as nausea and vomiting.
• Postdrome: After the pain has subsided, some patients feel tired, depressed, and have additional head pain and gastrointestinal symptoms. Others may experience euphoria and increased energy.
The pain and extreme neurological disruption of a migraine attack causes countless days of missed work, school, and enjoyment. Even worse, researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that women who have migraines accompanied by visual symptoms have a greater risk of stroke compared to women who do not have migraines.