Migraine refers to a debilitating pain in the head that is usually heavier one side of the head and, in rare cases, experienced on both sides. Migraine headaches often start as a dull almost inconspicuous pain that eventually becomes throbbing and intolerable over of the course of several hours. At times, the migraine headaches can last up to three days without respite. The pain is always accompanied by a host of other visual, auditory, olfactory and gastrointestinal symptoms.
Though migraine symptoms vary from patient to patient, the common secondary symptoms are nausea, a tendency to throw up; and hypersensitivity to lights, tastes, sounds and smells. The symptoms can also be differentiated into phases according to the onset of pain. Prodrome refers to the phase prior to the commencement of headache characterized by symptoms of fatigue, mood change, yawning, irritability, depression and craving for certain types of foods. Other migraine symptoms experienced during this phase are stiffness of the neck, flushed ears, frequent urination and watery stools.
Just minutes before the headache commences, migraine patients experience acute neurological disturbances related to vision, hearing, smell and touch comprising of the aura phase. The most common visual symptoms of migraine headaches include visions of flashes of light (photopsia), irregular shapes (teichopsia) and blurring. Similarly, patients experience a heightened awareness of taste, smell, sound and a tingling or numb feeling in parts of the face and extremities. Occasionally, patients experience the secondary symptoms other than headaches that are characteristic of migraine such as visual disturbances in eye migraine or sensory disturbances in migraine equivalent.
During the pain phase of migraine, patients suffer spikes in pain in conjunction with heightened sensory disturbances and seek to shun triggers such as lights, sounds and smells. One in three persons with migraine headaches experiences vomiting and profuse sweating. Some even feel dizzy, light headed or suffer vertigo, which is termed as vestibular migraine. Occasionally, vestibular migraine is not a symptom but a condition in itself as the patient experiences headache accompanied by a feeling of spinning motion. In the postdrome phase of migraine, patients experience a lull in the pain, a feeling of relief and weakness and, at times, a sense of euphoria.
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