For individuals who’ve never had a migraine before, it’s simple to dismiss migraines as “just a really strong headache”. But for those who’ve had a migraine, it’s easy to understand that a migraine is complex. But despite the differences surrounding migraines, they’re not uncommon; The American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention (AMPP) Study revealed that 12% of adults in the United States have experienced from a migraine.

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Who Gets Migraines?

The great number of migraine sufferers are female (Stewart, 66), and migraines appear to be the most popular in the lower economic classes (Stewart, 68). In the AMPP, Stewart thinks that migraine sufferers in a higher socioeconomic group are more prone to receive sufficient treatment from their physician. Stewart’s alternative theory is that in some individuals, headache-related disability may obstruct the ability to move to a higher socioeconomic class.

What is a Migraine?

A migraine is not just a headache. For many migraine sufferers, the headache is only a little part of the problem. Migraines often develop through four stages.

The earliest stage of a migraine (usually 1 to 2 days before the attack), the prodrome phase, is sometimes severe enough to be damaging, and sometimes it’s so light that it’s not even recognized. According to the Mayo Clinic, the prodrome phase may include:

  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Food Cravings
  • Hyperactivity
  • Irritability
  • Neck Stiffness
  • Uncontrollable Yawning

Some migraines (called “classic” migraines) present with a characteristic. It can take place during the prodrome phase or the attack, and it may include visual confusions (seeing shapes or flashes of light), vision loss, “pins and needles” in the arms or legs, and speech problems. Common migraines do not present with an aura.

The migraine attack can last anywhere from four hours to only a few days (Mayo Clinic). While most people associate migraines with the headache, a migraine attack frequently presents with additional symptoms. Sensitivity to light and sound is common, as is nausea (and sometimes vomiting). Blurred vision is a frequent symptom, and lightheadedness can be problematic and can sometimes lead to fainting (Mayo Clinic).

After the migraine, most people feel weary and worn out. Some people feel happy and even elated, but the majority of migraine sufferers feel weak, shaky, or extremely exhausted after an attack. This phase is called the postdrome. Additionally, if the migraine is severe or isn’t well treated, some of the symptoms of the attack (like the nausea or lightheadedness) may go on in a milder form into the postdrome.