Migraine is a chronic neurological disease with a strong genetic component. It is in some ways similar to epilepsy. The most common symptom is the migraine headache, though not all migraneurs (migraine sufferers) experience headaches. Migraine headaches are not regular headaches. They are often severe and may cause pain only on one side of the head. Neck and facial pain are also common. Migraine headaches may be accompanied by nausea, sensitivity to light or sound, visual disturbances, extreme tiredness, and other symptoms. According to the World Health Organization, 18% of U.S. women and 7% of U.S. men, or about 37 million people in the U.S. suffer from migraine. Migraine strikes at any age, but tends to peak in one’s 30s and 40s.
Migraine attacks – the headache phase – are often preceded by a build-up phase (called a prodrome). Symptoms experienced during this phase are referred to as a migraine aura. Migraine auras can include visual disturbances such as blind spots, zigzag lines or other visual distortions. Hearing disturbances are also common as are the sensations of strange smells and tastes. The list of possible auras is long, potentially unlimited as every migraneur is unique in their experience. Some other common aura symptoms include tingling or numbness, increased urination, lethargy, slurred speech, confusion, emotional changes such as anxiety or sadness, constipation, and food cravings. Many migraneurs learn to recognize their prodromal symptoms. This can be helpful in allowing the individual to initiate preventative measures before a full-blown
migraine attack occurs.