Understanding the Symptoms of Migraine

symptoms of migraine

Mad Over Migraine

Migraine is a predominant headache condition which is marked by chronic and cyclic headaches, ranging from medium to high intensity. It is commonly observed that the migraine pain affects half part of the head. It lasts from 2 to 72 hours and the patient experiences pulsating pain in the head. Many patients complain that the pain worsens with physical exertion.  Migraine is a neurological problem which affects the body’s nervous system. The exact cause of this problem is not yet known, but many pieces of research suggest that up to 25% of people experience the symptoms of migraine at some or the other point in their lifetimes.

Also, most migraine patients are females. In fact, it is reckoned that after adolescence the proportion of female to male patients who suffer from symptoms of migraine and pain is 3:1. Migraine is also more common in people who have epilepsy, asthma, anxiety, depression, stroke and/or some other hereditary or neurological problems. 5% of children with headache problems suffer from migraine pain. Though both boys and girls can get migraine, but after puberty, migraine becomes more common amid girls.

There are four possible phases of migraine pain. What is noteworthy is that not all the phases are certainly experienced.

  • Prodrome– This phase occurs few hours or days before the migraine. It occurs in about 60% of the migraine pain. The common symptoms of migraine experienced in this phase are irritability, changes in mood, energy levels, euphoria, irritation, tiredness, craving for certain food, stiffness in muscles, sensitivity to certain smell or noise, constipation, diarrhoea, etc.
  • Aura– This phase happens before or during the migraine pain. Symptoms of this phase could be sensory, visual or motor in nature. People can feel any one or all these symptoms. In 99% of the cases, people experience visual disturbances, and in 50% of the cases, it is accompanied with motor or sensory effects.
  • Pain or Headache Phase– This phase is characterized by a strong throbbing and pulsating pain on one side of the head. A person suffering from migraine in this phase can experience nausea, vomiting, and sometimes extreme sensitivity to sound and light. The discomfort increases with loud sound and bright light.

Interesting Migraine Updates

  • Migraine is linked to the bacteria in your mouth

A recent research has proved that there is a mechanism behind the nitrate based triggers associated with migraine. As per this research, people who suffer from migraine have notably higher levels of nitrate, nitrite and nitric oxide reductase genes in their oral and faecal samples, as compared to individuals who don’t have migraine problem.

  • Blame autumn season for worsening of your migraine

Changes in hours of daylight during an autumn season can trigger symptoms of migraine and worsen the pain. A lot of people facing migraine experience an increase in migraine attack during the autumn season, due to changes in weather pressure and humidity.

  • Change in diet can help in managing migraine

 A new study has shown that a low carbohydrate, high fat ‘ketogenic diet’ could aid in stopping migraine pain.

Symptoms of Migraine

Migraine pain is usually linked with sensitivity to elements like light, smell or/and sound. As described above, migraine causes severe pain usually on one side of the head, which many patients describe as ‘pounding’. Some other migraine symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light, sound or smell
  • Depression, irritability or excitement (mood changes)- Dutch research has demonstrated that there is a possible genetic connection between migraine and depression. This has been seen particularly in case of migraine pain with aura.
  • Stuffy nose or watery eyes- It has been noticed that migraine patients experience sinus symptoms like stuffy nose, watery eyes, nasal drainage etc.
  • Food cravings- Many people have a sudden food craving before the onset of the pain as part of the symptoms of migraine. It has also been noticed that they specifically crave for chocolates.
  • Pain in neck
  • Frequent urination
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor concentration
  • Abdominal pain
  • High fever
  • Mental confusion
  • Sleepiness or Yawning- Getting up fatigued or experiencing trouble in falling asleep are one of the most common problems and symptoms of migraine. Doctors believe that it is hard to have a proper sleep when one experiences migraine and therefore, a lot of migraine patients experience insomnia. The inability to sleep properly and migraine work in the vicious cycle, as one thing leads to another.
  • Tingling or Numbness
  • Trouble in speaking
  • Weakness on one side of the body
  • Vertigo or double vision
  • Aura- Almost one-third of migraine patients experience Aura. It is a visual inconvenience where patient experience temporary blind spot which obstructs part of visual field. Patients also experience flashing lights, loss of vision in an eye or blind spots. The aura usually lasts for five minutes to an hour.

What Triggers Migraine

The exact cause of migraine is not known, but there can be variations in some neurotransmitters, chemicals that send messages to the brain cells. These changes may cause migraine pain to some people.

There are many factors that have been identified as triggers for migraine. Listed below are some common triggers for migraine pain:

  • Alcohol (red wine, beer, champagne)
  • Citrus fruits
  • Caffeine
  • Dry fruits
  • Too much noise
  • Onions
  • Salty food
  • Sleep (too much, too less, changes in sleep pattern)
  • Stress
  • Skipping meals
  • Changing weather conditions
  • Menstrual period
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Too much exercise
  • Depression or emotional stress
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Bright or flickering light
  • Dairy products
  • Strong smell

Manage Migraine with Lifestyle Changes

Individuals who experience symptoms of migraine pain can make some simple changes in their lifestyle and manage their pain frequency and severity.

Keeping track of the time when migraine pain occurs is a significant change to identify the pattern as well as the trigger which causes migraine. Once the migraine patient establishes the pattern and contributing factors, lifestyle changes can be made to reduce the impact.

These changes can be:

  • Don’t skip meals- Changes in blood sugar levels can cause a gush of high pain that sets a migraine response. Hence it is advised not to stay hungry for long.
  • Continue a standard schedule for eating and sleeping- A proper schedule helps in monitoring the symptoms of migraine and mitigate the pain.
  • Avoid foods that act as trigger for migraine pain
  • Keep yourself well hydrated, as dehydration is a common trigger for migraine pain
  • Meditation, Yoga, Physical Workout- Regular physical exercise helps in building good health and reduce the chances of migraine attacks.
  • Control alcohol consumption- One must avoid alcohol that gives them a headache within eight hours of consumption.
  • MSG (Monosodium glutamate)- MSG is a food additive found in a wide range of processed, packaged and restaurant foods. This additive is used to enhance the flavors in the food. Studies have shown that MSG increases migraine in up to 15% of the people.
  • Limit caffeine intake- When a person regularly consumes a large amount of caffeine, it stimulates brain’s migraine centre and results in the person suffering from symptoms of migraine.
  • Peaceful sleep- A study conducted in 2010 demonstrated that sleep-deprived rats experienced certain changes in key migraine linked proteins. It proved that a proper and peaceful sleep helps in managing migraine attacks.
  • Be positive- Though in today’s times, it is not possible to completely avoid stress, one must try to remain calm during tough times. Practicing relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, listening to music, thinking of a peaceful scene, spending quality time with family are so of the ways through which one can find some peace and tranquility in lives.
Natural ways to cure Migraine

The throbbing migraine pain can be cured with some basic, simple and natural ways. Having said that, one should discuss with his/her healthcare provider or doctor before using any of these below mentioned ways.

  • Ice Packs- Always choose cold rather than hot packs to stop migraine pain. This is because ice has anti-inflammatory properties that certainly hot pads lack.
  • Relaxation Techniques- One should try to relax by massaging neck, shoulder and back to ease off migraine pain. If health permits, one can also try yoga as it helps in focusing on mindfulness.
  • Acupuncture- Many studies have shown that acupuncture provides long-term results without any kind of side-effect.

Migraine is a complex problem. According to many pieces of research, one in every four women and one in every twelve men suffer from symptoms of migraine at some point or the other in their lifetimes. According to WHO, migraine is one of the top 20 most disabling adult conditions all over the world in terms of years of a healthy life lost because of disability. But with proper care, precautions and knowledge, one can gauge the pattern of the migraine attacks and take the necessary steps and medication to manage the migraine pain. It is advised to track personal triggers by keeping a journal or diary. Every time one suffers a migraine attack, he/she should make a note about the triggers or the warning signs, along with the severity and time. This way a migraine patient can draw a pattern on what are his/her migraine triggers and make necessary amendments or changes in their lifestyle.


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