Migraine is a chronic neurological disorder that affects more than 37 million Americans. Doctors believe that millions more may suffer from migraines and not be aware that they have the condition. Here are the signs and symptoms that differentiate a migraine from other headaches.

Before the migraine: 

  • Aura: Many people experience auras before the onset of a migraine. These are neurological disturbances that signify the onset of the migraine. They can include visual symptoms such as zigzag patterns, flashing lights, and blind spots or unusual sounds, tastes, or odors.
  • Pins and needles: It is common to feel “pins and needles” or numbness in the arms, legs, hands, feet, or face at the onset of a migraine.
  • Food cravings: Some people experience intense food cravings right before a migraine attack.
  • Frequent urination: Some people find they need to urinate more often in the hours before a migraine.
  • Mood changes: Many people experience depression or irritability before the onset of a migraine.
  • Neck pain: Many people suffer neck pain before or after a migraine.
  • Stuffy nose and watery eyes: If you have cold or allergy symptoms, you might assume that you have a sinus headache. One study found that nearly 90 percent of people who complain of sinus headaches are actually experiencing migraines.

During the migraine:

  • Throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head: More than half of those who experience migraines only feel throbbing on one side of the head. The pain often gets worse with activity.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Seventy-three percent of migraine sufferers experience nausea with their headache; 29 percent experience vomiting. Other signs include dizziness, vertigo, and balance problems.
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, or smell: Enhanced sensitivity means that light, sounds, or smells can increase the intensity of a migraine.
  • Trouble speaking:  Some people have speech difficulties during the migraine.
  • Weakness: Some migraine sufferers experience weakness on one side of the body. Pain, difficulty speaking, and weakness can also be signs of stroke, so see a doctor if this happens to you.
  • Eye pain: Migraines often cause pain behind the eyes.

After the migraine:

  • Fatigue: You may feel very tired even if you have spent hours resting.
  • Headache hangover: It is not uncommon to feel mentally and physically spent after a migraine.
  • Brain fog and cognitive problems:
  • Low-grade headache

Migraine is a debilitating disease that can alter your quality of life. About 75 percent of migraine sufferers find it difficult to perform their job duties during a migraine attack. More than half have had to miss work.  Because migraines directly affect the ability to work, the unemployment rate among migraine patients is high. 

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