Migraines impact millions of people worldwide, and chances are good that you suffer from them yourself or know someone who does. Those who have never experienced pulsating pain, nausea, and the debilitating sensitivity might find it next to impossible to truly understand what suffers are going through. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, it’s now classified as a neurological disorder that’s the sixth most disabling disease in the world.
The premonitory stage
Technically, a migraine begins long before you even start to feel that telltale pain and researchers have found that most people develop particular cells that are your body’s way of foreshadowing the coming migraine. Identifying them is trickly, though, as different sings that can include almost anything and everything, from excessive yawning to tense muscles and even cravings for certain types of food. These strange signs can develop anywhere from a few hours before onset to a few days, and no one’s completely sure just what’s going on here. Neurologists from the University of California-San Francisco are hoping that decoding the cryptic warning stage can help unlock other secrets that are going on in the brains of migraine sufferers, but it’s an incredibly challenging thing to study.
About a third of the people who suffer from migraines develop what’s called an aura. Typically, the aura manifests as lines that across your vision, blurry patches or for some it means losing part of your vision altogether. Since most migraines impact your sight but not all are considered migraines with auras, the difference is an important one. Thinking of a blistering, boiling parking lot on a hot, sunny day.Those wavy, hazy lines that you see? That’s what an aura can look like.
The pain phase
First, a bit about the basics. If you suffer from migraines, this should sound at least partially familiar, while if you only know someone who gets them, this might help clear up just what’s going on. The pain phase of the migraine is characterized by things like a sensitivity o light and touch, a searing but localized pain, pulsing pain, sweating, clammy skin, nausea, and vomiting. Not everyone develops all the symptoms, and some people may even start slurring their speech, experiencing temporary blind spots, and feeling a spreading numbness.
The postdrome phase
The diversity of symptoms and the different ways each individual person can experience a migraine means there’s a lot that remains stubbornly unknown of allis the postdrome phase, which has only been
really acknowledged since 2004 and remains vastly understudied. There are a few reasons for this, and the first is that this is the part of the migraine where the worst of your headache has gone away, and you’re feeling not entirely better, but at least not in agonizing pain. For a long time, there was just no point in studying that, but now researchers are starting to realize that the varying symptoms of the postdrome can be a part of the migraine for some sufferers.
Why figuring out triggers is so complicated
It seems like it should be a straightforward thing. You’re exposed to a trigger, and that sets you on the path to a full-blown migraine. While some people might be able to figure out that drinking a certain type of wine might trigger a migraine, it’s way more complicated than that for most.
How the blind are unlocking migraine sufferers’ sensitivity to light.
One of the biggest symptoms of a full-blown migraine is sensitivity to light, and it can also be a trigger. In order to try to find out just why that’s such a major part of migraines for so many people, researchers from Harvard took a look at what was going on when two groups of people, all blind, suffered from migraines.