While many symptoms are common between migraine sufferers, not all patients experience all symptoms. Likewise, there are 4 distinct stages to a migraine episode, though not everyone experiences all stages. The prodrome stage typically occurs a day or 2 before migraine pain begins. This stage may include:
The aura stage may occur before or during the pain stage. Aura refers to symptoms coming from the nervous system, such as affected vision — the most common — or other sensory issues. Some of these include:
The migraine attack stage typically lasts between a few hours to a few days. A pulsing or throbbing pain occurs on 1 or both sides of the head, accompanied by a sensitivity to light, and possibly sounds, smells, and touch. A sufferer may be prone to fainting, lightheadedness, or nausea.
After the attack, there’s a recovery period called the postdrome. It’s typically about a day long, during which the patient usually feels drained and wiped out. Sensitivity to light and sound may remain, and they may also feel confused, moody, or dizzy.
The cause of migraines isn’t known, but genetics and environment seem to play a role. Serotonin appears to have an influence, as levels drop during migraine attacks. It’s still not understood exactly how this process works, or how it’s influenced by migraine triggers.
For those at risk, there are many conditions and substances that may bring on a migraine attack. These include:
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