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One of the things that makes a migraine different than an ordinary headache is that a migraine has phases. Over the next few weeks, I want to take an indepth look at each phase of a migraine. Today we will be looking at the Prodrome.
What is Prodrome?
Prodrome is derived from the Greek word, prodromos which means running before. The medical definition of prodrome is, a symptom or group of symptoms that appears shortly before an acute attack of illness. Therefore, when discussing migraine, prodrome means symptoms that occur before the actual migraine begins.
The prodrome phase of a migraine can occur a few hours or even a few days before a migraine attack. This variation is one of the things that makes it difficult to associate the symptoms to the migraine attack.
What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of the Prodrome phase are hard to spot because some of them are rather normal. For example, yawning in itself is a difficult one because everyone yawns and every time you yawn you do not get a migraine. Yawning is definitely one of my symptoms and it will display itself as uncontrollable, constant yawning.
Below is a list of the most common Prodrome symptoms:
- Mood Changes
- Difficulting Concentrating
- Excessive Yawning
- Frequent Urination
- Food cravings
- Sensitivity to Light (read my post, Here)
- Sensitivity to sounds
- Muscle stiffness
- Aphasia (read my post, Here)
- Insomnia or excessive sleepiness
According to Migraine.com, “Between 30% and 40% of people living with migraine experience the prodrome, and for those living with migraine, it can be very helpful because it can serve as a yellow light of sorts, a warning that an attack is coming.”
To Treat or Not to Treat?
The opportunity to treat a migraine before it becomes raging is one of the reasons recognizing the symptoms is important. If treated in the prodrome phase,a migraine may not reach the severity it would have without early treatment.
Many people take a wait and see approach to treating the early symptoms. According the American Migraine Foundation, “Unfortunately, by the time the headache builds and blossoms to become full-blown, the treatment they administer is much less likely to be effective.” The article also points out some very specific information regarding medications and peak blood levels that I found very interesting, you can read the article, here.
John F. Rothrock, MD, from the Headache Treatment and Research Program at the University of Alabama also talks about other interesting things regarding early treatment. “Consider also a related point that cannot be overemphasized: an acute migraine headache is a dynamic biologic process, and as the headache evolves its susceptibility to treatment decreases. Three aspirin and a caffeinated beverage taken early may prove far more effective in terminating an attack than an injectable medication administered when the headache is fully developed.” Therefore, treating early is the best option if prodrome symptoms have been identified and are present.
How to Identify Your Prodrome Symptoms
This is the hardest part as there is no absolute pathway to figuring out if you have prodrome symptoms and what they are for you. The best way I have found it to keep a headache journal and be as specific as possible. If you notice some of the symptoms occurring, record it in your headache journal. Over time, you may start to see a pattern that would indicate it as a prodrome symptom.
The difficulty is there because no two migraine attacks are the same. Each one is distinct in its own way. Although yawning is one of my prodrome symptoms, it doesn’t happen every time. This makes tracking difficult and it makes figuring out the prodrome phase a hard task. Continual tracking can make figuring it out easier than keeping everything in your memory.
By tracking your migraine attacks and figuring out your prodrome symptoms, you can start to treat the migraine before it becomes really bad. This makes treating it more manageable and keep you from enduring a horrific attack.
Learning as much as you can about the phases of your migraines can make managing your illness much easier.