Migraine headaches are recurring moderate-to-severely painful throbbing or pulsating headaches. They are typically felt on only one side of the head and worsen with physical activity. Migraine is a complicated condition thought to be caused by changes in neural firing and the constriction of blood vessels in the brain. There are several kinds of migraine with a variety of symptoms that may be experienced before, during, and after the headache itself.
Potential symptoms of migraine can be roughly grouped into those which occur before (prodrome and aura), during (attack), and after (postdrome) the headache itself. Individuals suffering from migraines do not necessarily experience all possible phases of symptoms, and it is possible to have migraines that consist solely of attack symptoms.
Prodrome symptoms occur in the days and hours leading up to a migraine headache. During the prodrome phase, you may experience:
- Changes in mood or the ability to concentrate
- Muscle pain or stiffness around the head and neck
- Sensitivity to light or sound
Migraine auras occur immediately prior to the headache, typically lasting between a few minutes and an hour. Any of the following may be experienced during a migraine aura:
- Visual disturbances such as flickering lights or temporary vision loss.
- Tingling or numbness in the arms, legs, or face
The migraine attack phase includes the headache itself and lasts between 4 and 72 hours. If migraine attack symptoms continue longer than 72 hours, this is a medical emergency and you should seek assistance immediately. Typical attack symptoms include:
- Throbbing pain on one side of the head that gets worse when you move. This pain tends to be concentrated in a small area but can spread as the headache develops.
- Increased sensitivity to light or sounds
- Dizziness, nausea, or lightheadedness
The postdrome phase of migraine is also called a “migraine hangover” and can linger for up to 48 hours after the migraine headache resolves. Postdrome symptoms generally consist of fatigue and trouble thinking or concentrating.
The World Health Organization estimates that 15% of adults have experienced at least one migraine in the last year. Migraines are extremely common, but certain factors can put you at greater risk, including:
- Age. Migraines occur more often in adults than in children.
- Sex. Migraines are about twice as prevalent in women than men.
- Family history. People with family members who suffer from migraines are more likely to have migraines themselves. Most migraine patients have at least one first-degree relative who has migraines.
How are migraines diagnosed and treated?
Migraines are diagnosed based on symptoms reported to your doctor along with in-office physical and neurological examinations. Your doctor may order tests in order to rule out other issues, but they are not typically needed to diagnose migraines themselves.
Once diagnosed, migraine treatment typically consists of identifying and avoiding triggers (such as sleeplessness or caffeine), combined with medication. Depending on the frequency of your migraines, your doctor may prescribe one or more medications. Medications prescribed for migraines generally fall into two categories:
- Abortive medications aim to deter the development of a migraine in progress or lessen the severity of the attack.
- Preventative medications are taken on a schedule to decrease the incidence of migraines.
Why Choose NGPG?
NGPG Neuroscience employs a team of board-certified neurologists, neurosurgeons, neurointerventional surgeons, neuropsychiatrists, and other specialists who provide high-quality care and up-to-date treatments through our two outpatient Neurology office locations. For imaging and surgical care, we offer care at Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s state-of-the-art facilities, ensuring our patients have access to all of the services of a leading hospital alongside our excellent outpatient care.
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