More Than Just a Headache: Examining Migraine Symptoms

Written by Jessica Puterbaugh | January 26, 2022

Intense head pain is usually the most notable migraine symptom, but it is not the only one. Today we begin a new blog series, More Than Just a Headache: Examining Migraine Symptoms to take a closer look at the variety of ailments that often come along for the ride. We hope to help you better understand your unique set of migraine symptoms and offer tips for managing them.

What to Know

Migraine symptoms vary widely from person to person. They can vary depending on what type of migraine you have, how migraine plays out in your individual situation, what stage of an attack you are in (prodrome, aura, attack, postdrome), and sometimes even attack to attack. Symptoms can also happen in the interictal period between attacks. Some can be quite debilitating, while others are more of a nuisance, but even “nuisance” symptoms can be highly impactful when they last for a long time or are combined with others.

Symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Head, face and neck pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and other GI issues
  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue/exhaustion
  • Visual disturbances
  • Speech changes
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and scent
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Mood changes—irritability, anxiety and/or depression
  • Numbness, paralysis and tingling
  • Tinnitus
  • Nasal/Sinus Congestion
  • Yawning
  • Increased thirst/dry mouth
  • Swollen, droopy, or watery eyes

Track Your Symptoms

Keeping track of your symptoms and their timing can help you manage them more effectively. It may even help you better predict an attack before it starts, and it can shed light on which symptoms are most impacting your life. Use apps like MigraineBuddy or N1-Headache, or just keep a written list.

Find a Good Doctor and Keep Them in the Loop

As always, one of the most important parts of migraine management is finding a doctor who is willing to listen to, and work with, you. This is often no easy feat, but if you’re able to find one it can make all the difference.

We recommend finding a certified headache doctor, as they are the most knowledgeable about migraine and other headache disorders, and are up to date on the newest treatment options. A good headache specialist will have a qualified and comprehensive approach and will be well-informed about migraine and its various symptoms. They will also participate in ongoing education (CME) specific to headache disorders. However, you should also try to find a good primary care doctor. Seeing a specialist is really important (especially for something as misunderstood as migraine!), but having a well-rounded primary care doctor can help connect dots that may be otherwise missed due to comorbidities and medication side effects. (Note: Finding good doctors can be an incredibly challenging experience, and we will write more about this in greater detail in a future blog series.)

Tell Your Doctor About Your Symptoms

It’s important to talk with your doctor about any and all of the symptoms you may be having—whether you believe they are migraine-related or not. This helps your doctor better understand your specific condition and tailor treatment to best suit your needs. It also helps to rule out any underlining conditions which may be impacting your migraine, and address comorbidities which are common for people who live with migraine.

It’s not unusual for your symptoms to change over time, but be sure to alert your doctor of any that are new or worsening. A good acronym for this, which helps you see if there are any red flags, is SNOOP:

S: systemic symptoms (e.g. fever, weight loss)
N: neurologic symptoms or abnormal signs (e.g. confusion, impaired consciousness)
O: onset is sudden or abrupt
O: onset after age of 50 of new and progressive headache
P: pattern change (e.g. change in severity, frequency or features)

We Want to Know!

Are there any specific symptoms you’d like to see covered in this new series? Which do you find the hardest to live with? We’d love to hear any tips you may have for managing migraine and its many symptoms.

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