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Migraine Phases

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Attack Phase: The Headache Begins

The attack portion of a migraine episode can last for a few hours to several days. During this phase of the migraine, the person usually wants to rest quietly and finds normal activities difficult.

A defining quality of migraines is their pain. The pain of a migraine:

  • Usually begins above the eyes
  • Typically affects one side of the head, but it may strike the entire head or move from one side to the other. It may also affect the lower face and the neck.
  • Tends to have a throbbing intensity
  • May throb worse during physical activity or when you lean forward
  • May get worse if you become physically active

Other symptoms that may arise during this phase include:

  • Unusual sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells
  • Light-headedness and fainting
  • Nausea and vomiting

Postdromal Phase: After the Storm

Following the most severe phase of the migraine, you may not feel well for up to a day. Symptoms of this post-migraine phase may include:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Sluggishness
  • Confusion
  • Head pain that flares up when you lean over, move quickly, or experience a rush of blood to the head

Your overall experience with migraines may change over time. They can change in frequency or severity, and attacks may not always include all of these stages. Also, you may eventually develop the migraine aura without actually having a headache.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on April 14, 2014
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