Can Feeling Weird Predict a Migraine Attack?

Do you ever feel like you can predict a migraine is coming on because you just feel “off”? You’re not crazy. This is the first phase of a migraine attack, called prodrome, which occurs before the pain — and often visual aura — set in. It can start a day or two before a headache or visual aura.

The long, long list of possible prodrome symptoms:

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

Sensory

  • 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)

Motor

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

Language

  • difficulty finding words
  • problems understanding spoken or written language

Cognitive

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

Digestive

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

Fluid Disturbances

  • increased thirst
  • bloating/fluid retention
  • frequent urination

Mental/Personality

  • mood changes
  • irritability
  • high energy
  • lethargy

These are only part of little-known migraine symptoms. The Many Symptoms of Migraine describes symptom in the active migraine phase and the letdown, or postdrome.

Migraine: The Complete Guide is the source of these lists. It is my very favorite headache book, but is outrageously outdated. Perhaps if we mention it enough, the American Headache Society will consider updating the 14-year-old book.