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What Does the Start of a Migraine Feel Like? Signs & Symptoms

Warning signs of amigraine may include increased urination, constipation, food cravings, mood changes, tiredness, and sensitivity to light or sound

Warning signs that a migraine is coming on may include:

  • Increased urination
  • Constipation
  • Food cravings
  • Mood changes
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Frequent yawning
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Blurred vision
  • Flashes of light or zigzag shapes
  • Numbness or tingling

What are the stages of a migraine?

Migraines may go through four stages, although this varies from person to person. 

1. Prodrome

Also known as a “preheadache” or premonitory phase, prodrome may last a few hours to days, with symptoms such as:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Stiff muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Food cravings

2. Aura

Some people experience an aura before or during a migraine attack that lasts for 10-60 minutes and may include symptoms such as:

  • Numbness or tingling
  • Seeing bright flashing dots
  • Blind spots
  • Changes in speech pattern
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Temporary loss of vision
  • Seeing wavy or jagged lines
  • Changes in smell or taste

3. Attack 

During a migraine attack, you may experience drilling, throbbing, or pulsating headache on one side of the head that lasts for 4-72 hours.

4. Postdrome

About 80% of people with migraines experience a postdrome phase or migraine “hangover” characterized by:

  • Inability to concentrate
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Elation

What are different types of migraine?

  • Common migraine (migraine without aura): Most common type of migraine, in which there is no aura phase.
  • Migraine with aura (previously called complicated migraine): About 15%-20% of people experience aura with migraines.
  • Migraine with brainstem aura: Headache along with other symptoms such as vertigo, slurred speech, double vision, loss of balance, ringing in the ears, and vomiting.
  • Silent or acephalgic migraine: Aura symptoms are not typically followed by headaches.
  • Hemiplegic migraine: Headache is associated with temporary numbness, extreme weakness or hemiplegia (temporary paralysis on one side of the body), tingling, loss of sensation, and dizziness or vision changes.
  • Ocular or retinal migraine: Involves partial or complete loss of vision in one of the eyes, along with a dull ache behind the eyes along with a headache.
  • Chronic migraine: Occurs at least 15 days a month with varying severity.
  • Status migrainosus: Rare and severe type of migraine that lasts longer than 72 hours.

SLIDESHOW

16 Surprising Headache Triggers and Tips for Pain Relief
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What can trigger a migraine?

Commonly reported migraine triggers include:

  • Stress (anxiety and excitement can increase muscle tension, dilate blood vessels, and release certain chemicals, leading to an attack.)
  • Missing or skipping a meal
  • Sensitivity to certain foods (aged cheese, alcoholic beverages, chocolate, food additives such as nitrates, and fermented or pickled foods)
  • Caffeine (excessive coffee consumption or withdrawal from caffeine)
  • Routine use of pain-relief medications
  • Flashing lights
  • Loud noises
  • Not drinking enough water
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Overexertion
  • Being tired
  • Perfumes and strong odors
  • Excessive dieting 
  • Change in weather conditions or changes in altitude
  • Hormonal changes 
  • Certain medications

What are risk factors for migraines?

Risk factors that make someone more vulnerable to developing migraine headaches include:

  • Gender: Women ages 15-55 are 3 times more likely to develop migraines than men.
  • Genes: About 80% of people with migraines have a first-degree relative with the condition or a family history of migraine.
  • Stress: Stress can act as both a causative and triggering factor.
  • Smoking: People who smoke are more prone to migraines than those who do not smoke.

Medically Reviewed on 3/1/2022

References

Image Source: iStock Images

Nayana Ambardekar. Migraine Warning Signs. WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/ss/slideshow-migraine-warning-signs

Migraine Headaches. Cleveland Clinic: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/5005-migraine-headaches

The Timeline of a Migraine Attack. American Migraine Foundation: https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/timeline-migraine-attack/

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