It’s worth knowing whether what you’re experiencing is really a migraine, or whether it could be a tension or cluster headache, which are commonly mistaken for each other, but have different causes and treatments.
Migraines can result in a pulsing sensation or severe throbbing pain, and often occur only on one side of the head. The pain can be debilitating and impact your work and daily life, and is often accompanied by sensitivity to sound and light, nausea and vomiting. Migraines occur more or less often from person to person, and can happen many times a month or very rarely. Some people receive a warning they’re about to suffer a migraine due to something known as an aura, which occurs just before the headache sets in. Auras can include tingling on the face, arms or legs, difficulty speaking, or visual disturbances like flashes of light.
Migraines usually begin either during childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood, and often progress in four stages: prodrome, aura, attack, and post-drome.
The prodrome stage usually occurs a day or two before the migraine, and can include subtle warning signs of the impending headache, such as:
Unexplained mood swings, from feeling down or depressed to feelings of euphoria Stiffness in the neck
Increased urination and thirst
Unusual food cravings
The aura stage is experienced by some migraine sufferers, and can last for several minutes.
Examples of aura symptoms include
Loss of vision
Seeing flashes of light, shapes or bright spots
Tingling and pins and needles in the body or face
Hearing music or noises that aren’t there
Jerking or movements that are uncontrolled
The attack stage is the painful migraine itself, which can last between four and 72 hours. The attack stage may include
Severe pain on one or both sides of the head
A throbbing and pulsing sensation
Vomiting and/or nausea
Sensitivity to noise, light, and sometimes touch and odour
The post-drome stage occurs after the migraine has subsided, and may leave you feeling confused and lethargic for up to a day following the attack. Turning or moving your head suddenly during this phase may prompt brief sparks of pain.
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