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Migraine tends to develop in early adulthood and can be particularly unsettling or scary when the symptoms initially begin. Knowing what is happening and what to expect during an attack, may help manage this fear.

Understanding migraine symptoms and causes also enables you to explain the condition to friends, family and/or colleagues.

This is really important if you feel you are missing out on specific occasions, or unable to fulfil social or work commitments due to migraine.

Migraine attacks can come in four key stages, though you may not experience every one:

The warning

The warning (otherwise known as the ‘prodrome’ stage) sees a person living with migraine experiencing physiological changes, such as shifts in appetite, mood and energy. This usually occurs for a few hours to a few days before an attack.

The aura stage

In the aura stage some may experience neurological symptoms, such as flashes of light and/or blind spots. Although, since not all types of migraine feature an aura, this may not happen to everyone.

The main attack stage

The migraine headache or main attack stage, brings a painful throbbing headache typically on one side of the head. This is usually accompanied by other symptoms, such as nausea and/or light and sound sensitivity.

The recovery stage

Recovery or ‘postdrome’ stage can last a few hours or several days after the main attack has ended. Symptoms are similar to those felt in the first stage of the migraine attack or can feature mirrored symptoms to the first stage, such as hunger after a loss of appetite in the first stage.

Seeking help for migraine

Don’t let migraine go undiagnosed, make an appointment with your doctor. If your symptoms include any of those listed below this may be a sign of a more serious condition; you should seek immediate medical help if you experience:

• A sudden agonising headache, unlike anything experienced before

• Headache with fever, stiff neck, mental confusion, seizures, double vision, weakness or numbness

• Trouble speaking

• Paralysis or weakness in one or both arms and/or one side of the face

Even if you have a history of headaches, see your doctor or another healthcare professional if the pattern changes or your headaches suddenly feel different.