Those Vexing Migraine Symptoms - Using Them to Our Advantage

Teri Robert @trobert Health Guide
  • Migraine attacks have symptoms other than headache. There's a plethora of other possible symptoms that can occur during the four potential phases of a migraine attack. We've discussed these symptoms many times. Mainly, we've discussed how severe these symptoms can be, how difficult they make our lives, and how we can treat them.

     

    There's another way to look at all of these symptoms, a way to look at them that can be quite beneficial. How can we USE these symptoms to our advantage? No, I'm not asking that question from a mind-muddling migraine fog. I'm quite serious. Those of us who experience the prodrome phase of a migraine attack, the aura phase, or both may very well be able to use those symptoms in multiple ways. First, let's review the symptoms of the migraine prodrome and aura:

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    Migraine Prodrome:

    Prodrome symptoms can vary from one Migraine to the next. Some Migraineurs have even found that which prodrome symptoms they experience is a good indicator or how severe their Migraine is going to be because they have different prodrome symptoms with mild, moderate, and severe Migraines. Possible prodrome symptoms include:
    • concentration problems,
    • depression,
    • difficulty reading (aphasia),
    • difficulty speaking (aphasia),
    • diarrhea
       
    • fatigue,
    • food cravings,
    • hyperactivity,
    • hypoactivity,
    • increased thirst,
    • increased urination,
    • irritability,
    • nausea,
    • phonophobia,
    • photophobia,
    • repetitive yawning,
    • sleep problems, and
    • stiff neck.
    - See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/migraine/c/123/141428/recognizing#sthash.NHT1fYBT.dpuf
    Prodrome symptoms can vary from one Migraine to the next. Some Migraineurs have even found that which prodrome symptoms they experience is a good indicator or how severe their Migraine is going to be because they have different prodrome symptoms with mild, moderate, and severe Migraines. Possible prodrome symptoms include:
    • concentration problems,
    • depression,
    • difficulty reading (aphasia),
    • difficulty speaking (aphasia),
    • diarrhea
       
    • fatigue,
    • food cravings,
    • hyperactivity,
    • hypoactivity,
    • increased thirst,
    • increased urination,
    • irritability,
    • nausea,
    • phonophobia,
    • photophobia,
    • repetitive yawning,
    • sleep problems, and
    • stiff neck.
    - See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/migraine/c/123/141428/recognizing#sthash.NHT1fYBT.dpuf
    Prodrome symptoms can vary from one Migraine to the next. Some Migraineurs have even found that which prodrome symptoms they experience is a good indicator or how severe their Migraine is going to be because they have different prodrome symptoms with mild, moderate, and severe Migraines. Possible prodrome symptoms include:
    • concentration problems,
    • depression,
    • difficulty reading (aphasia),
    • difficulty speaking (aphasia),
    • diarrhea
       
    • fatigue,
    • food cravings,
    • hyperactivity,
    • hypoactivity,
    • increased thirst,
    • increased urination,
    • irritability,
    • nausea,
    • phonophobia,
    • photophobia,
    • repetitive yawning,
    • sleep problems, and
    • stiff neck.
    - See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/migraine/c/123/141428/recognizing#sthash.NHT1fYBT.dpuf
    Prodrome symptoms can vary from one Migraine to the next. Some Migraineurs have even found that which prodrome symptoms they experience is a good indicator or how severe their Migraine is going to be because they have different prodrome symptoms with mild, moderate, and severe Migraines. Possible prodrome symptoms include:
    • concentration problems,
    • depression,
    • difficulty reading (aphasia),
    • difficulty speaking (aphasia),
    • diarrhea
       
    • fatigue,
    • food cravings,
    • hyperactivity,
    • hypoactivity,
    • increased thirst,
    • increased urination,
    • irritability,
    • nausea,
    • phonophobia,
    • photophobia,
    • repetitive yawning,
    • sleep problems, and
    • stiff neck.
    - See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/migraine/c/123/141428/recognizing#sthash.NHT1fYBT.dpuf

    Prodrome symptoms can vary from one Migraine to the next. Some Migraineurs have even found that which prodrome symptoms they experience is a good indicator or how severe their Migraine is going to be because they have different prodrome symptoms with mild, moderate, and severe Migraines. Possible prodrome symptoms include:

    • concentration problems,
    • depression,
    • difficulty reading (aphasia),
    • difficulty speaking (aphasia),
    • diarrhea
       
    • fatigue,
    • food cravings,
    • hyperactivity,
    • hypoactivity,
    • increased thirst,
    • increased urination,
    • irritability,
    • nausea,
    • phonophobia,
    • photophobia,
    • repetitive yawning,
    • sleep problems, and
    • stiff neck.
    - See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/migraine/c/123/141428/recognizing#sthash.NHT1fYBT.dpuf
    Prodrome symptoms can vary from one Migraine to the next. Some Migraineurs have even found that which prodrome symptoms they experience is a good indicator or how severe their Migraine is going to be because they have different prodrome symptoms with mild, moderate, and severe Migraines. Possible prodrome symptoms include:
    • concentration problems,
    • depression,
    • difficulty reading (aphasia),
    • difficulty speaking (aphasia),
    • diarrhea
       
    • fatigue,
    • food cravings,
    • hyperactivity,
    • hypoactivity,
    • increased thirst,
    • increased urination,
    • irritability,
    • nausea,
    • phonophobia,
    • photophobia,
    • repetitive yawning,
    • sleep problems, and
    • stiff neck.
    - See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/migraine/c/123/141428/recognizing#sthash.NHT1fYBT.dpuf
    Prodrome symptoms can vary from one Migraine to the next. Some Migraineurs have even found that which prodrome symptoms they experience is a good indicator or how severe their Migraine is going to be because they have different prodrome symptoms with mild, moderate, and severe Migraines. Possible prodrome symptoms include:
    • concentration problems,
    • depression,
    • difficulty reading (aphasia),
    • difficulty speaking (aphasia),
    • diarrhea
       
    • fatigue,
    • food cravings,
    • hyperactivity,
    • hypoactivity,
    • increased thirst,
    • increased urination,
    • irritability,
    • nausea,
    • phonophobia,
    • photophobia,
    • repetitive yawning,
    • sleep problems, and
    • stiff neck.
    - See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/migraine/c/123/141428/recognizing#sthash.NHT1fYBT.dpuf
    Prodrome symptoms can vary from one Migraine to the next. Some Migraineurs have even found that which prodrome symptoms they experience is a good indicator or how severe their Migraine is going to be because they have different prodrome symptoms with mild, moderate, and severe Migraines. Possible prodrome symptoms include:
    • concentration problems,
    • depression,
    • difficulty reading (aphasia),
    • difficulty speaking (aphasia),
    • diarrhea
       
    • fatigue,
    • food cravings,
    • hyperactivity,
    • hypoactivity,
    • increased thirst,
    • increased urination,
    • irritability,
    • nausea,
    • phonophobia,
    • photophobia,
    • repetitive yawning,
    • sleep problems, and
    • stiff neck.
    - See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/migraine/c/123/141428/recognizing#sthash.NHT1fYBT.dpuf
    Prodrome symptoms can vary from one Migraine to the next. Some Migraineurs have even found that which prodrome symptoms they experience is a good indicator or how severe their Migraine is going to be because they have different prodrome symptoms with mild, moderate, and severe Migraines. Possible prodrome symptoms include:
    • concentration problems,
    • depression,
    • difficulty reading (aphasia),
    • difficulty speaking (aphasia),
    • diarrhea
       
    • fatigue,
    • food cravings,
    • hyperactivity,
    • hypoactivity,
    • increased thirst,
    • increased urination,
    • irritability,
    • nausea,
    • phonophobia,
    • photophobia,
    • repetitive yawning,
    • sleep problems, and
    • stiff neck.
    - See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/migraine/c/123/141428/recognizing#sthash.NHT1fYBT.dpuf
    Prodrome symptoms can vary from one Migraine to the next. Some Migraineurs have even found that which prodrome symptoms they experience is a good indicator or how severe their Migraine is going to be because they have different prodrome symptoms with mild, moderate, and severe Migraines. Possible prodrome symptoms include:
    • concentration problems,
    • depression,
    • difficulty reading (aphasia),
    • difficulty speaking (aphasia),
    • diarrhea
       
    • fatigue,
    • food cravings,
    • hyperactivity,
    • hypoactivity,
    • increased thirst,
    • increased urination,
    • irritability,
    • nausea,
    • phonophobia,
    • photophobia,
    • repetitive yawning,
    • sleep problems, and
    • stiff neck.
    - See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/migraine/c/123/141428/recognizing#sthash.NHT1fYBT.dpuf
    Prodrome symptoms can vary from one Migraine to the next. Some Migraineurs have even found that which prodrome symptoms they experience is a good indicator or how severe their Migraine is going to be because they have different prodrome symptoms with mild, moderate, and severe Migraines. Possible prodrome symptoms include:
    • concentration problems,
    • depression,
    • difficulty reading (aphasia),
    • difficulty speaking (aphasia),
    • diarrhea
       
    • fatigue,
    • food cravings,
    • hyperactivity,
    • hypoactivity,
    • increased thirst,
    • increased urination,
    • irritability,
    • nausea,
    • phonophobia,
    • photophobia,
    • repetitive yawning,
    • sleep problems, and
    • stiff neck.
    - See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/migraine/c/123/141428/recognizing#sthash.NHT1fYBT.dpuf
    Prodrome symptoms can vary from one Migraine to the next. Some Migraineurs have even found that which prodrome symptoms they experience is a good indicator or how severe their Migraine is going to be because they have different prodrome symptoms with mild, moderate, and severe Migraines. Possible prodrome symptoms include:
    • concentration problems,
    • depression,
    • difficulty reading (aphasia),
    • difficulty speaking (aphasia),
    • diarrhea
       
    • fatigue,
    • food cravings,
    • hyperactivity,
    • hypoactivity,
    • increased thirst,
    • increased urination,
    • irritability,
    • nausea,
    • phonophobia,
    • photophobia,
    • repetitive yawning,
    • sleep problems, and
    • stiff neck.
    - See more at: http://www.healthcentral.com/migraine/c/123/141428/recognizing#sthash.NHT1fYBT.dpuf

    Prodrome symptoms can vary from one Migraine to the next. Some Migraineurs have even found that which prodrome symptoms they experience is a good indicator or how severe their Migraine is going to be because they have different prodrome symptoms with mild, moderate, and severe Migraines. Possible prodrome symptoms include:

    • aphasia,
    • concentration problems,
    • depression,
    • diarrhea
    • fatigue,
    • food cravings,
    • hyperactivity,
    • hypoactivity,
    • increased thirst,
    • increased urination,
    • irritability,
    • nausea,
    • phonophobia,
    • photophobia,
    • repetitive yawning,
    • sleep problems, and
    • stiff neck.

    Migraine Aura:

    Most people immediately think of visual symptoms when thinking of migraine aura. There are several potential visual symptoms, but aura isn't always visual. It can affect our other senses too. Migraine aura symptoms can include:

     

    Visual Symptoms:

    • Scotoma, an area of decreased or lost vision. Some people describe scotoma as being like having tiny blank spots in their vision. Some say it looks like tiny snowflakes.
    • Wavy lines. Some have described their vision being similar to how things appear on a hot day through the heat rising from the pavement of streets.
    • Phosphenes: brief flashes of light that streak across the visual field.
    • Blurry vision.
    • Unilateral blindness. This occurs only in retinal migraine.

    Other Symptoms:

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    • Aphasia: loss or impairment of the power to use or comprehend words.
    • Auditory hallucinations: hearing sounds that aren't really there.
    • Olfactory hallucinations: smelling odors that aren't really there.
    • Allodynia: hypersensitivity to feel and touch.
    • Paresthesia: often described as numbness or as a prickly, stinging, or burning feeling.
    • Confusion
    • Dizziness: not to be confused with vertigo, the sensation of spinning or whirling.
      the sensation of spinning or whirling
    • Decrease in or loss of hearing.
    • Hiccups.
    • Reduced sensation.
    • Motor weakness. This must be distinguished from numbness or tingling and is a symptom of hemiplegic migraine only.
    • Hemiplegia (unilateral paralysis). This also is a symptom of hemiplegic migraine only.
    • Vertigo: the sensation of spinning or whirling. Occurs in vestibular migraine.

    Using Our Symptoms:

    Since the prodrome can begin a day or two before the rest of the migraine attack, and (if we're fortunate) a migraine attack may stop during the prodrome without progressing further, it's not recommended that any migraine treatment be used during the prodrome. That said, once we learn to recognize our prodrome symptoms, they can be used to our advantage by allowing us to:

    • Keep our treatments at-hand so we can take them immediately if the migraine attack progresses.
    • Avoid driving since, even though we may not notice it, a migraine slows our response times, which means we're more likely to have an accident.
    • Take care of ourselves and avoid other potential triggers by getting plenty of rest, staying well hydrated, and eating well.

    Research has shown that migraine treatments work best when taken early in a migraine attack and sometimes don't work at all if we wait until later in a migraine attack to use them. The jury is still out about whether treatment such as the triptans (Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, etc.) work when taken during the aura phase, and it may well vary from one migraineur to the next. This is something we each need to discuss with our doctors and determine for ourselves. My personal experience is that if I take my triptan as soon as I notice the aura beginning, it usually does work and sometimes aborts the migraine before the headache phase begins.

  •  

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    Even if we don't treat the migraine during the aura phase, we can still us those symptoms because they can allow us to:

    • Keep our treatments at-hand so we can take them at the point in the attack that we and our doctors have determined to be optimal for us.
    • Avoid driving since, even though we may not notice it, a migraine slows our response times, which means we're more likely to have an accident.
    • Be prepared to take our medications, use hot or cold therapies, sip ginger ale or peppermint tea - whatever we need to do to treat the migraine and be more comfortable while we wait for it to end.

    Summarizing:

    Obviously we don't like having migraines. What's the old saying? "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?" Well, if me must tolerate these vexing migraine symptoms, let's use them to our advantage! Do you experience the prodrome and / or aura? If you're not sure, pay close attention to your body so you can recognize the symptoms, and keep a detailed migraine diary. Let's use these symptoms to empower ourselves and take control of our migraines rather than letting them control us.

    Related information:

    Do you have suggestions for using our migraine symptoms to our advantage? If so, or if you'd like to comment on this post, please post a comment below, and share with us!
         

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    Resources:

     

    International Headache Society. "International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd edition." Cephalalgia. July 2013 33: 629-808, doi:10.1177/0333102413485658

     

    Evans, Randolph W. & Rolak, Loren A. (2004) Expert Opinion. Headache. 44 (6), 624-625. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2004.446013.x

     

    Evans, Randolph W.; Mathew, Ninan T. "Handbook of Headache," Second Edition. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. 2005.

    Young, William B., M.D.; Silberstein, Stephen D., M.D. "Migraine and Other Headaches." American Academy of Neurology Press. 2004.

    Robert, Teri. "Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches." HarperCollins. 2005.

     

    Live well,

    PurpleRibbonTiny Teri1

     

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    Reviewed by David Watson, MD.

     

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    © Teri Robert, 2014, •  Last updated December 17, 2014.

     

     

     

     

     

Published On: December 17, 2014