A migraine is a headache that involves throbbing or pulsing on one side of the head. It is very different from other headaches, which are typically characterized by duller, more widespread pain. The International Headache distinguishes a migraine by the length of the attacks (at least five over a period of time that depends on the individual, plus pain that lasts from four to 72 hours.) Experts have named four distinct stages of migraine, though not every migraine sufferer goes through them all. The stages are:
- Prodrome occurs one to two days before the migraine itself. Patients may experience mood changes, sleepiness with frequent yawning, thirst, and an increased need to urinate.
- Aura, or visual disturbance, occurs 30 minutes before the attack. Patients may experience partial vision loss, language problems, and tingling sensations.
- The attack itself, which lasts from four to 72 hours. During the attack period, patients experience intense, throbbing pain, typically on one side of the head above the head, though it may occur in the entire head. Pain may worsen with physical activity or movement and is often accompanied by light, sound, and smell sensitivity, fainting, and nausea/vomiting.
- Postdrome begins when the attack period finishes, and is characterized by an exhausted, hangover-like feeling which lasts for one to two.
According to the National Library of Medicine, Migraines usually appear for the first time between the ages of 10 and 45. They are three times more common among women than men, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. (Estrogen may be a culprit.) Occasionally, the NLM says, they may become less frequent during pregnancy. According to the National Headache Foundation, 37 million Americans suffer from migraines.