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Diseases & Conditions

Migraine Headaches: Stages & Triggers

Migraine headaches are an extremely painful condition that can persist for hours or days. The primary symptom is an intense throbbing pain on one side of the head. Extreme sensitivity to sound, light, nausea, and vomiting may also be present. The symptoms are often so severe that affected individuals are unable to function normally.

Stages of Migraine Headaches

Individuals who suffer from migraine headaches may experience it in four stages. First comes prodrome, next is aura, followed by an attack, and feelings after the migraine also known as post-drome.

Beginning Stages of a Migraine: Prodrome

Patients may experience symptoms like constipation, food cravings, and increased thirst and urination prior to feeling a full blown migraine. Other symptoms indicating the onset of a migraine include mood changes ranging from depression to euphoria, neck stiffness, and frequent yawning.

Middle Stage: Aura

At the onset of or immediately prior to a migraine, some individuals may experience disturbances to the nervous system known as auras. Symptoms are usually mild at first and increase in intensity in the first few minutes. They tend to resolve within 20 to 60 minutes after onset. Patients often report visual disturbances including vision loss, wavy vision, or the presence of bright flashes of light or shapes. Other symptoms include tingling in the extremities including the arm or leg, weakness on one side of the face or body, difficulty speaking, or difficulty controlling the body’s movements.

Attack Stage

The frequency and intensity of migraine headaches varies from person to person. Some people will experience migraines only rarely while others may suffer from several within a month. Without treatment, symptoms typically last from four hours to three days. In addition to intense pain, nausea, and vomiting, patients often complain of blurred vision and sensitivity to light as well as other senses including sound, smell and touch. The headaches sometimes cause a feeling of dizziness and lightheadedness which may result in fainting.

Last Stages of a Migraine: Post-drome

Once the migraine headache has subsided, patients may feel exhausted, weak, confused, or dizzy and light and sound sensitivity may continue. In some cases, a sense of euphoria or other mood issues may occur. Within 24 hours, post-drome symptoms usually cease completely and patients return to normal.

Migraine Triggers

There are many factors that are thought to trigger the onset of migraine headaches. Hormonal changes in women, stress, changes in the wake-sleep pattern and changes in the environment have all been linked to migraines. The consumption of certain foods, additives, or drinks may also trigger the onset of a migraine.

Medications to Treat Migraine Headaches

Over-the-counter and prescription medications are available to address the pain and discomfort related to migraine headaches. Patients dealing with migraines should consider a consultation with one of our pharmacists to discuss treatment options.

Over-the-Counter Medications:

  • Imitrex
  • Relpax
  • Maxalt
  • Frova
  • Zomig
  • Cafergot
  • Midol

Compounded Medications:
We can make nasal sprays, capsules, and oral suspensions of the following:

  • Indomethacin
  • Caffeine
  • Butalbital
  • Naproxen
  • Acetaminophen
  • Butorphanol
  • Sumatriptan
  • Ergotamine
  • "It is rare to find health professionals who are so willing to educate the patient on what they need to know."

    Clair C. | West Hollywood, CA