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It’s Hard to Believe These Are Migraine Symptoms (But They Are)

Working on an Migraine.com article about all the migraine symptoms that most people have no idea are related to migraine reminded me of the list of symptoms I made for my internist in 2008. The list of all the weird things happening in my body that seemed to have no explanation was more than a page long. My doctor had no idea what they could point to. Now I know that, except for cold sores, they were all migraine symptoms.

I’m a little uncomfortable sharing such a private list, but I think it’s important to show some of the possible varied and strange migraine symptoms, as well as how severe migraine can be. Most of them are direct migraine symptoms, but some were a result of migraine symptoms (like tingling arms, which was part of a cascade of physical reactions due to constant neck pain that ultimately resulted in pinched nerves). Certain symptoms were so normal that I didn’t even think to include them on the list, like tooth sensitivity, earaches, eye irritation, or neck pain. Others were such common migraine symptoms that I didn’t mention them. Still others I was embarrassed to reveal, like hallucinating sounds.

It’s odd to think that we can be in our bodies and still not be able to figure out what’s going on or dismiss the signals that something’s not working right. But we do it all the time. I have lived with chronic migraine for the vast majority of my life and have been writing about it for nearly 10 years. Still, it’s only been in the last year that I’ve been able to connect the last of these weird symptoms to migraine.

This list doesn’t represent all of my symptoms or even the worst I experienced, but they came shortly after the turning point when my illness went from bad to terrible, in June 2007. My symptoms continued to worsen for another 2.5 years. I lived it and still have trouble believing how incredibly sick I was. It’s no wonder people without migraine have no idea how severe this illness can be.

Symptom Summary for Kerrie Smyres, 4/7/08

ACUTE

Nausea

  • Current biggest concern
  • Increases over first hour each day
  • Food usually decreases for 1-2 hours

Feeling faint, lightheaded, blacking out (also chronic)

  • Worsened by standing up, exercise
  • Blackouts (either last less than 30 seconds or until I wake up)

Vertigo

  • Usually mild; moderate
  • Diagnosed with Meneire’s without hearing loss, 2000

Sensitivity to exertion/exercise

  • Walking a half mile = feeling faint, lightheaded, exhausted
  • Gentle yoga triggers pounding headache

Fatigue

  • Bones feel heavy and tired
  • Nap 3 hours/day at least 5 days/week (from 2 hours a year ago)

Meltdowns

  • Become unreasonable, irritable, exhausted
  • Get lightheaded, woozy
  • Often no obvious trigger; sometimes triggered by hunger, bright lights, crowds

Other

  • 15 lb. weight loss since June 2007
  • Night sweats, chills, shivering
  • Hands, arms tingle 3-5x/night
  • Can’t get workspace bright enough when lighting was once fine (in kitchen, at desk)
  • Whooshing in ears, like blood pulsing; worse during migraine
  • Vision bounces/pulses always; worse during migraine
  • Sudden decreased hearing & ringing in left ear; my voice echoes
  • Canker sores, cold sores
  • Heat intolerance
  • Hand tremor
  • Constipation
  • Nasal congestion
  • Constant thirst, drink 100-150 oz water/day

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Weird Migraine Symptoms: Earache, Sensitive Teeth & Eye Irritation

For years I have complained to my primary care providers that I have frequent earaches, but my ears always look perfect. I tell dentists that a few teeth are extremely sensitive to heat, cold and sweets, though the pain is inexplicably intermittent. I often wonder if I have a torn contact because one eye feels like there’s a grain of sand lodged in it. Yet I can never find an identifiable cause for the pain in my ears, teeth or eyes. At least, I couldn’t until my migraines turned from constant to cyclical. Turns out I only have the aforementioned symptoms when I have a migraine. Of course, when I had a migraine all the time, I had these symptoms all the time. Now that the migraines come and go, so do the other pains.

None of these particular complaints show up on the long list of little-known migraine symptoms, though they’ve come up in my conversations with other migraineurs. The majority of the world equates migraine with headache, but there’s so much more going on in this neurological disorder. If I could trade, I’d keep the pain if it meant I could get rid of the fatigue and fuzzy-headedness. (Not that I have any say in how the migraines behave.)

I wonder what other migraine symptoms have yet to be recognized. What are your unusual migraine symptoms? Do any of them bother you more than the pain part of the migraine?