Just a few days ago, a 30-year-old woman, Raina, came to see me. She complained of frequent headaches which were occurring atleast 2-3 times a week. Each time she would get a headache, it would begin gradually, and then get worse over minutes to a few hours. In the beginning the pain would be dull and then become pulsating. She also complained of nausea and extreme sensitivity to light and noise. When she was a teenager, she would have the same headaches twice a month but now over the years, the frequency has increased.
Does the above story sound familiar? Well Raina is suffering from a migraine.
Migraine is one of the most common medical conditions that causes disability in the world. Many people suffer for years and years from frequent headaches and do not realize that they might be suffering from a migraine.
So the first question is – what exactly is migraine?
- Migraine is typically a one-sided headache (though 40% might have headaches bilaterally) that lasts for 4 to 72 hours.
- The headache is typically throbbing or pulsating in nature. It starts slowly and becomes severe as the hours go by.
- The headache is usually associated with either light or noise sensitivity or both. Typically due to this, all the person wants to do is lie in a dark room with his or her eyes closed.
- The headache is usually accompanied with a feeling of nausea leading to vomiting in some people. Many people describe having relief in pain after vomiting.
If someone has any of the above symptoms when they have a headache, they most likely have a migraine. Migraine headaches can cause significant pain that can last from hours to days affecting both, the personal and professional lives of people who suffer from them. It can affect the quality of life, at times making people miss out on important events due to severe pain.
Now a migraine consists of 4 phases that the brain goes through:
- Prodrome: This phase may start upto 12 hours before the actual headache starts. Symptoms include feeling irritable, tired and constant yawning. It is almost like a ‘warning sign’ for a migraine that is soon to begin.
- Aura: The aura occurs right before the headache starts and typically lasts for five to 60 minutes. Common auras include zigzag lines, flashing lights, changes in vision, numbness or tingling of fingers and hands. Rarely it can cause symptoms like trouble with speech or weakness.
- Pain/Headache: Right after the aura, the headache starts gradually. Initially being dull and then worsening over the next few hours. It can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours. It is usually accompanied by nausea and extreme light or noise sensitivity.
- Postdrome: This is the last phase of the migraine. Even after the pain is gone, it can take up to another 24 hours to feel completely back to normal. People usually complain of feeling tired and exhausted after their migraine attack is over.
(Dr.Sonia Lal Gupta is a neurologist specializing in Headache Medicine and Strokes. She is practicing at Metro Multispecialty Hospital, Noida and MP Heart Clinic, New Delhi. She is also the co-host of NDTV’s weekly health segment “Doctors on Call”.)
Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.