BENGALURU: We all get headaches. Sometimes we attribute them to stress, hunger or even lack of sleep. These are the mild ones. But what about the intense, incapacitating ones? The ones where it feels like there’s a jackhammer going off inside the head, where you can’t bear any lights or sounds, let alone indulge in any other normal activity. If you suffer from such debilitating headaches along with bouts of nausea, then your ‘headaches’ may very well be episodes of migraine.
Migraine is a complex neurological disorder that is characterised by one sided throbbing headache, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, smell and sound. One episode of migraine usually lasts anywhere between four to 72 hours. The first symptom of migraine that comes to our mind is a headache. Apart from a headache, there are several other stages a migraineur (person suffering from migraine) experiences:
Prodrome stage: This is the onset of a migraine headache which serves as a warning stage. The sufferer becomes aware of the symptoms a couple of hours to days earlier itself. The symptoms include frequent yawning, mood change and fatigue, sensitivity of senses (heightened smell, light sensitivity), stiffness of the neck and constipation.
Aura stage: This is a rare type of migraine that is often severe in nature. Not all migraineurs suffer from an aura. An aura is the second stage of migraine headache which begins gradually and lasts for several minutes. It is basically a visual disturbance phenomenon. The symptoms include seeing zigzag lines, bright shapes, spots, stars in the vision; vision loss; numbness in entire body or one side of the body; and hallucinating sound or smell that is in reality, not there.
The attack stage: This is the core and the most challenging part of migraine that involves unfathomable pain in the head. If left untreated, it can last up to 72 hours. The symptoms include throbbing or pulsating one sided headache, sensitivity to light, sound and smell, blurred vision, nausea and/or vomiting.
Postdrome stage: This is the recovery stage and the final part of the migraine attack.
This phase can make one feel washed out and drained of energy for up to 24 hours. The symptoms include dizziness, confusion, weakness, light, sound and smell sensitivity.
As per a study conducted in Southern India, migraine patients are thought to lose 3.5 productive days every three months due to migraine. Migraine has even been linked with an increased risk of stroke and an increased prevalence of clinically silent brain lesions and white matter hyperintensities (WMH).
The good news is that migraine is a treatable condition. With timely intervention and suitable treatment one can get complete relief from migraine symptoms.
The author is a clinical director at the department of neuro-sciences, Narayana Health City