Not all headaches are the same. Sometimes things like fluorescent lights can make your head hurt. Or, sometimes headaches are a secondary symptom of stress. One thing that everyone can agree on is that headaches are the worst. They interrupt your day, can make it difficult to concentrate, and they can be extremely painful.
Those who suffer from chronic migraines, though, can tell you that the pain can make it almost impossible to function. Some symptoms set migraines apart from other types of head pain.
Head Pain Quiz
Take the quiz below to see how much you know about migraines and then keep reading to learn more.
Migraine headaches are widespread. Studies estimate that between 38 and 50 million adults in the United States get migraines each year. That’s more than 12% of the total population, and the prevalence among women is even higher. Nearly 1/5 women report that they experience migraines regularly. The Migraine Research Foundation states that 157 million workdays are lost in the U.S. each year due to this type of headache.
For some people this type of headache is chronic, meaning that they suffer from them frequently. Migraines that occur more than 15 days a month are known as chronic migraines, which often require ongoing medical treatment. They can interfere greatly in daily life.
The symptoms of migraines are so severe that nearly 90% of those who get them are unable to complete daily activities during an attack. As symptoms last for anywhere from a few hours, up to a few days, it can be debilitating. If you get these types of headaches, you know what we’re talking about.
The Four Stages of a Migraine Headache
Migraines are different from other types of headaches in a few major ways. The first is that they are the only type of headache known to occur in stages. Warning symptoms can appear as far as 24-hours in advance, which can give those who notice the symptoms enough time to prepare for an attack. Migraines also present with symptoms aside from head pain, a signal that you don’t have just a typical headache.
Stage One: Prodrome
The prodrome is the stage of a migraine that happens before actual head pain occurs. Symptoms include irritability, food cravings, sensitivity to light and sound, problems concentrating, nausea, and more. The prodrome stage can last anywhere from a few hours to one day before a migraine attack.
Stage Two: Aura
The aura stage of a migraine headache is one of the trademarks of this type of headache. It’s a pattern of visual disturbances. Individuals may see flashes of light, geometric patterns, have blurry vision or experience blind spots. For lots of people, this is the main indicator that they are about to have a migraine attack. The aura can last anywhere from five to sixty minutes.
Stage Three: Headache
The headache is the height of the pain associated with a migraine attack. During this stage, pain sets in, frequently targeted behind one eye or on one side of the head. However, everyone experiences migraines differently, and they may have more widespread pain. Migraine pain may move into the face and down the neck.
During the headache stage people may also suffer from nausea, insomnia, anxiety, as well as sensory sensitivity. Light, sound, and smell may bother those experiencing a migraine headache.
Stage Four: Postdrome
Many people call the last stage, of a migraine the “migraine hangover.” About 8 in 10 people experience this effect, leaving people feeling drained, achy, dizzy, and sensitive to light. While the head pain begins to subside, other symptoms persist, leaving a person feeling poorly until the phase passes.
Identifying Migraine Headaches
The good news is that doctors can treat migraine headaches. If you suffer from them regularly or find yourself debilitated more than 15 days a month, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. Being able to spot prodrome symptoms early enough can give you the chance to take medication that may help you avoid a migraine altogether. Or at least, help you minimize the symptoms.
You can also try these 7 tips to relieve headaches naturally to see if they help alleviate some of your discomforts.