Migraine headaches are one of the most common neurological disorders in the world1. It is characterised by a one-sided throbbing pain accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound and smell.

Before we get into the symptoms of migraine, let us understand the four stages of a migraine headache.

Theoretically there are four stages of a migraine headache2

  • Prodrome or the warning stage
  • Aura or the visual disturbance stage
  • Attack or headache stage
  • Postdrome or recovery stage

Each of these stages have their own characteristics, however, not all migraineurs will experience the 4 stages of migraine headache.

Symptoms of Migraine Headache

Onset of migraine headaches often begin in childhood or adolescence or early adulthood1. The first symptom of migraine that comes to our mind is a headache. Yes, headache is the most challenging stage of migraine. Apart from a headache, there are several other issues a migraineur has to face.

Let us have a look at it stage by stage.

Prodrome stage:

This is the onset of a migraine headache which serves as a warning stage. The symptoms are perceived couple of hours to days earlier itself. The symptoms include1

  • Frequent Yawning
  • Mood change and Fatigue
  • Sensitivity of senses (heightened smell, light sensitivity)
  • Stiffness of the neck
  • Constipation

Aura Stage:

This is a rare type of migraine that is often severe in nature. Not all migraineurs suffer from an aura. An aura is the second stage of migraine headache which begins gradually and lasts for several minutes. It is basically a visual disturbance phenomenon. The symptoms include3

  • Seeing zig zag lines, bright shapes, spots, starts in the vision
  • Vision loss
  • Numbness in entire body or one side of the body
  • Hallucinating sound or smell that is actually not there

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The attack stage –

This is the core and the most challenging part of migraine that involves inscrutable headache. If left untreated, it can last upto 72 hours4. The symptoms include4

  • A throbbing or pulsating one sided headache
  • Sensitivity to light, sound and smell
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and/or vomiting

Postdrome stage –

This is the recovery stage and the final part of the migraine attack. This phase can make one feel washed out for upto 24 hours5. The symptoms include5

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Weakness
  • Light, sound and smell sensitivity

Managing migraine symptoms –

Migraine is a treatable condition and suitable treatment will ensure you get complete relief from migraine symptoms. Some steps that you can take to manage migraine symptoms are –

  • Consult your doctor
  • Avoid known triggers
  • Eat healthy
  • Reduce stress
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Reduce screen time
  • Relax
  • Sleep and wake up on time
  • Avoid smoking
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  1. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2017; 21(7): 34. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5486593/
  2. Neurologia. 2017 Dec 22. pii: S0213-4853(17)30359-6. doi: 10.1016/j.nrl.2017.09.014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29277522