The Many Symptoms of Migraine

Is it just a coincidence that you feel foggy-headed, have to pee a lot and always have dark black circles under your eyes every time you have a migraine? Nope. Throbbing head pain, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and weird visual effects are the most discussed symptoms of migraine, but the list is far from comprehensive.

Migraine: The Complete Guide, my very favorite headache book, lists the infrequently discussed symptoms of migraine. I was astonished the first time I saw this list — and relieved to know that I wasn’t a freak of nature. Take a look for yourself:

Prodrome (the period before the pain begins)

Visual (aka aura)

  • a bright shape that spreads across the visual field of one eye and appears to block some or all of the vision; can be seen whether the eye is open or closed
  • flashes of light and color
  • wavy lines
  • geometric patterns
  • blurred vision
  • partial loss of sight


  • numbness or tingling on the face or upper extremities
  • a sense that limbs are a distorted shape or size
  • smelling odors that aren’t actually present (like natural gas or something burning)


  • partial paralysis
  • weakness or heaviness in the limbs on one side of the body


  • difficulty finding words
  • problems understanding spoken or written language


  • mental confusion
  • disorientation
  • transient global amnesia (similar to amnesia that follows a concussion)


  • food cravings (particularly for carbohydrates, candy and chocolate)
  • stomach rumblings
  • constipation

Fluid disturbances

  • increased thirst
  • bloating/fluid retention
  • frequent urination


  • mood changes
  • irritability
  • high energy
  • lethargy

Headache Phase


  • sensitivity to light and noise
  • intolerance of being touched
  • heightened sensitivity to odors


  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • intolerance of food odors
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhea
  • constipation


  • paleness
  • cold, clammy hands and feet
  • facial swelling
  • goose bumps
  • bloodshot eyes
  • black circles around eyes
  • sweating

Fluid disturbances

  • water retention
  • frequent urination


  • frequent yawning
  • sighing
  • hyperventilating
  • nasal congestion
  • runny nose


  • irritability
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • nervousness
  • difficulty concentrating


  • changes in blood chemistry
  • changes in blood pressure
  • blood vessel dilation
  • difficulty regulating temperature
  • changes in heart rhythms

Postdrome (24 hour following headache)


  • inability to concentrate


  • frequent yawning


  • fatigue
  • depression
  • euphoria
  • feeling of intense well-being
  • lethargy

So you’re not crazy, losing your mind or faking it!

This information is much like that in Not Just a Headache: Migraine’s Other Symptoms, which I posted last December. It’s such an important topic and receives so little attention that I wanted to revisit it.

By the way, Migraine: The Complete Guide is published by the American Council for Headache Education and is a terrific resource for anyone who wants to learn about migraine. It was published in 1994, but the information is so good that its worth getting. And if you buy it through the links in this post, a portion of what you spend will help support this blog.

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