A migraine headache can be very debilitating and brings normal life and activities to a standstill until it has passed. Those who suffer from this condition know how it can affect the quality of life and the suffering they must endure. A migraine attack goes through 4 distinct stages, so understanding and knowing these stages can help patients to limit the intensity and duration of the attacks.
The Prodromal Stage
This is the first or early warning stage and about 60% of migraine sufferers experience this. It starts anywhere from few hours to two days before the actual attack. The common symptoms include abnormal bursts of energy and/or feeling of euphoria, problems in concentrating, anxiety, sensitivity to smell and/or noise, food cravings and fatigue with frequent spells of yawning.
The Aura Stage
The second or aura stage of a migraine is experienced by about 20% of patients. It typically begins about an hour before the attack itself and continues until the migraine actually starts. This stage may not occur with every migraine attack. The normal symptoms include vision problems such as flashing, flickering or shimmering lights affecting eyesight, small areas of temporary vision loss, the image of zig zag lines affecting vision, problems in focusing, tunnel vision, difficulty in speaking, writing or understanding words, muscle weakness and numbness in the extremities and feeling of “pins and needles” in the face and/or hands.
The Attack Stage
The third stage is the actual migraine attack itself. This is something every migraine patient goes through and it can last anywhere from few hours to few days. The intensity and duration may vary with each attack. The pain may be either throbbing or pulsating and the intensity can range from mild to very severe. The type and intensity of the pain may vary with each attack. The pain may be felt on both sides of the head or only on one side. Other symptoms include increased sensitivity to sound, smell and light, blurred vision, feeling of light-headedness and/or spells of fainting, nausea and vomiting.
The Postdromal Stage
This last stage of a migraine starts after the actual attack has subsided. It is experienced by almost all patients and can last anywhere from few hours to two days.The symptoms include extreme fatigue, feeling of sluggishness, irritability, anxiety, depression, problems in concentrating, nausea and tenderness and/or stiffness of the scalp or neck.
Dealing With A Migraine
A migraine patient will have pain relievers that he or she uses to deal with the condition. In the first three stages, taking the medication as soon as the symptoms are noticed can help to reduce the intensity of the symptoms and the attack. In the fourth stage, cutting back on the medication can be helpful in preventing the onset of what is known as a rebound headache that can occur when the medication is abruptly stopped.
Although migraines are very common, self diagnosis and medication are not advisable as they may work to make the condition worse. It is always best to have the patient examined at a reputed multi-speciality hospital where specialist doctors, examination and testing facilities are available to ensure that the diagnosis is complete and accurate so that the right course of medication and other treatment can commence.