What is a Migraine Headache?

This often severe and throbbing type of headache is different from other types of headaches in that symptoms other than pain occur with the headache. Nausea and vomiting, lightheadedness, sensitivity to light, and other visual disturbances are common migraine symptoms. A migraine headache may last 4 to 72 hours.

Migraines are also unique in that they have distinct and different phases. Not all people experience each phase, however. The phases of migraine may include:

  • Premonition Phase - A change in your mood or behavior that may occur hours or days before the headache.
  • Aura Phase - About one-third of people who have migraine headaches describe having an usual "feeling" or aura before a the headache. The aura phase includes visual, sensory, or motor symptoms that occur just before the headache. Examples include hallucinations, numbness, changes in speech, visual changes, and muscle weakness. Migraine sufferers may or may not have an aura before the beginning of a headache.
  • Headache Phase - This is the period during the actual headache. Throbbing pain occurs on one or both sides of the head. Sensitivity to light and motion is common, as are depression, fatigue, and anxiety.
  • Headache Resolution Phase - Pain lessens during this phase, but may be replaced with fatigue, irritability, and trouble concentrating. Some people feel refreshed after an attack, while others do not.

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