This is exactly how I felt in the beginning of this week. I had a terrible headache, vertigo and the overall feeling was really bad. At one point I really thought I will die. But then I got the right medicine and thought to myself “I’m gonna die another day”. The reason why I was so sick is actually simple – I had a migraine. And yes – a migraine can cause all the symptoms I had. But what is a migraine?

Well, a migraine is a very painful type of headache. People who get migraines often describe the pain as pulsing or throbbing in one area of the head. During migraines, people are very sensitive to light and sound. They may also become nauseated and vomit. Migraine is three times more common in women than in men. Some people can tell when they are about to have a migraine because they see flashing lights or zigzag lines or they temporarily lose their vision.

Usually migraines have 4 stages:

1. The prodrome, which occurs hours or days before the headache – Prodromal symptoms occur in 40–60% of those with migraines. This phase may consist of altered mood, irritability, depression or euphoria, fatigue, yawning, excessive sleepiness, craving for certain food (e.g chocolate), stiff muscles (especially in the neck), hot ears, constipation or diarrhea, increased urination, and other visceral symptoms.

2. The aura, which immediately precedes the headache – For the 20–30% of migraine sufferers who experience migraine with aura, this aura comprises focal neurological phenomena that precede or accompany the attack. They appear gradually over 5 to 20 minutes and generally last fewer than 60 minutes. The headache phase of the migraine attack usually begins within 60 minutes of the end of the aura phase, but it is sometimes delayed up to several hours, and it can be missing entirely. Visual aura is the most common of the neurological events and can occur without any headache. There is a disturbance of vision consisting often of unformed flashes of white and/or black or rarely of multicolored lights or formations of dazzling zigzag lines. There is actually a Youtube video in which migraine aura is simulated – you can find the link here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLJ00o-vmh0

3. The pain phase, also known as headache phase – The typical migraine headache is unilateral, throbbing, and moderate to severe and can be aggravated by physical activity. The pain peaks and then subsides and usually lasts 4 to 72 hours in adults and 1 to 48 hours in children. The frequency of attacks is extremely variable, from a few in a lifetime to several a week, and the average sufferer experiences one to three headaches a month. The head pain varies greatly in intensity.The pain of migraine is invariably accompanied by other features. Nausea occurs in almost 90 percent of patients, and vomiting occurs in about one third of patients. Many patients experience sensory hyper excitability manifested by photophobia, phonophobia and osmophobia, and seek a dark and quiet room. Blurred vision, delirium, nasal stuffiness, diarrhea, tinnitus, polyria or sweating may be noted during the headache phase. Vertigo may be experienced; a variation of the typical migraine, called vestibular migraine , has also been described.

4. The postdrome – The effects of migraine may persist for some days after the main headache has ended. Many sufferers report a sore feeling in the area where the migraine was, and some report impaired thinking for a few days after the headache has passed. The patient may feel tired or “hungover” and have head pain, cognitive difficulties, gastrointestinal symptoms, mood changes, and weakness.

Many things can trigger a migraine. These include

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Lack of food or sleep
  • Exposure to light
  • Hormonal changes (in women)

So, it’s actually a very serious disease (if I can call it that way). I had migraine headaches when I was in my teenager years. Then they stopped. I still had headaches but nothing a serious as migraines. Recently migraines have been coming back. But I labeled those headaches similar to migraine, not an actual migraine. But this time I went through all the four stages of a migraine and had almost all the symptoms. And it was a a truly bad experience. I’m trying to find out what triggered such a big migraine and trying to avoid the trigger because I DO NOT want to go through this again. I really thought I was dying. When I got better I started to do some research on the migraine subject and found out some fun facts also. For example famous people like Julius Caesar, Napoleon, Ulysses S.Grant, Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Virginia Woolf, Cervantes, Lewis Carroll, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, Elvis Presley, Elisabeth Taylor and Lisa Kudrow also suffered from migraines. So, I at least I’m not alone with such a problem.

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