How Long Do Migraines Last Duration Symptoms And What To Do
Migraine can cause severe, recurrent, and potentially disabling headaches that typically last from 472 hours.
Many people associate migraine episodes with feelings of nausea, heightened sensitivity to light and sound, and occasionally skin and muscle sensitivity.
Migraine is surprisingly common. Around 39 million people in the United States experience this neurological diseases incapacitating symptoms.
This article looks at how long migraine attacks last, migraine stages, causes, and common triggers. It then explores treatments, prevention, and when someone should seek help for symptoms.
Migraine is a complex condition with different stages and contributing factors. They can last from 472 hours if left untreated.
The length and frequency of migraine varies from person to person.
There is an especially intense form of migraine called status migrainosus .
These long-lasting migraine headaches can cause symptoms for more than 72 hours, even with treatment.
Although exact epidemiological data is lacking, an 11-year study showed that SM affects around 3% of people with migraine.
Migraine progresses through different phases that lead on from each other. Not everyone will experience each phase with every migraine attack they have. The four stages are:
Each stage lasts a different length of time, varying between people and between each migraine attack.
Understanding the distinct phases of a migraine attack can help people manage the condition.
How Long Is Too Long For A Migraine
Every 10 seconds, someone in the U.S. goes to the emergency room for head pain. So when should you go to the ER for migraine? According to the American Migraine Foundation, the best reason for an ER visit is for unusual symptoms that are new to you.
Not sure when you should go to an emergency department? You should go if you have:
The American Migraine Foundation reminds patients that there is not one universal protocol for treating headache or migraine in the ER. Different ER doctors may approach treatment in different ways. For the long-run you should follow up with your headache specialist to establish or tweak your treatment plan.
How To Shorten Your Migraine Attack
If you recognize the signs that a migraine attack may be coming on, you may be able to reduce the amount of time it lasts, says Spears. Often the person with migraine doesnt always recognize the prodrome phase, but someone close to them a spouse or family member may pick up on it, he says.
Spears offers a few tips to potentially reduce the length of your migraine attack:
- Aggressively hydrate. Drinking a lot of water is usually helpful.
- Limit your physical activity. If possible, sit or lie down somewhere.
- Avoid stimulating environments. Go to a dark, quiet place.
Some people find that relaxation techniques, such as meditation or massage, will help release the tension they feel in their face, jaw, or neck. If you can release tension with these techniques, your migraine attack may not be as severe or last as long. Others find that putting a cold compress on their temples will help relieve their migraine symptoms and keep their migraine from lasting as long, Mauskop says.
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When Should I Seek Immediate Help Or Contact My Healthcare Provider
- You are experiencing the worst headache of my life.
- You are having neurologic symptoms that youve never had before, including speaking difficulty, balance problems, vision problems, mental confusion, seizures or numbing/tingling sensations.
- Your headache comes on suddenly.
- You have a headache after experiencing a head injury.
Schedule a visit with your healthcare provider if:
- The number or severity of your headaches increase or your headache pattern changes.
- Your medications no longer seem to be working or youre experiencing new or different side effects.
Migraine With Brainstem Aura And Menieres Disease
It should not shock you to learn that vertigo and dizziness is not unique to vestibular migraine, although it is one of the most common underlying conditions that causes it. Migraine with brainstem aura and Menieres disease are two other conditions that present similar symptoms but also have key differences as well.
Migraine with brainstem aura has vertigo as its primary symptom, but it also typically includes ringing in the ears and other auditory issues, speech dysfunction , and double vision. In addition, these symptoms are shorter in duration, between 5-60 minutes, most commonly occur during the aura or pre-attack stage of a migraine, and almost always are followed by headache.
On the other hand, Menieres disease is a disorder of the inner ear that results in vertigo and other vestibular symptoms such as nausea and vomiting. Tinnitus, hearing loss, and congestion of the ear are also common for this condition and key signs for diagnosis. One of the main diagnostic impediments for medical professionals is that Menieres disease can present with headache in as many as 40% of patients, meaning they often have to look for other migraine-related indicators during examination.
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What Is A Migraine
Migraine is a very common, but very particular, type of headache. Most people who have migraine experience repeated attacks of headaches that occur over many years. The typical migraine headache is throbbing or pulsating, and often is associated with nausea and changes in vision. While many migraine headaches are severe, not all severe headaches are migraines, and some episodes can be quite mild.
Up to 20% of people in the United States will experience migraine headaches at some point in life. In about half of those, migraine headaches first appear during childhood or adolescence. Two-thirds of people who get migraines are women, probably because of the influence of hormones. Migraines also tend to run in families.
Despite years of research, scientists do not know exactly why migraines occur. The pain of migraines is associated with swelling in blood vessels and irritation of nerves that surround the brain. But most experts don’t think that this is the direct cause of migraines.
The brain doesn’t have pain receptors. But it processes pain signals from other parts of the body. It’s the pain processing networks, or centers, in the brain that are overly reactive or dysfunctional in migraine.
The brain chemical serotonin may play an important role in this process as it does in other conditions, including depression and eating disorders.
Does The Duration Of Migraine Pain Affect Which Treatments Should Be Used
The duration of migraine pain doesn’t necessarily change what acute treatments should be used. Healthcare providers look for the treatment that knocks out the attack most effectively, even if it’s short-acting. If youre able to completely relieve the symptoms, then that’s a good sign that they won’t return.
For individuals who have prolonged attacks with prolonged disability, healthcare providers are more likely to consider preventive migraine treatment. Even if they don’t necessarily have frequent attacks, if they experience several days a month of disability associated with an attack, then prevention should be considered.
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When To Call A Professional
If you have a history of migraine, you should contact your doctor if you develop headaches that differ from your usual headache or other migraine symptoms. Examples include:
- Headaches that get worse over time
- New onset of migraine in a person over age 40
- Severe headaches that start suddenly
- Headaches that worsen with exercise, sexual intercourse, coughing or sneezing
- Headaches with unusual symptoms such as passing out, loss of vision, or difficulty walking or speaking
- Headaches that start after a head injury
In addition, you may want to see your health care professional if you have headaches that do not get better with over-the-counter medications severe headaches that interrupt work or the enjoyment of daily activities or daily headaches.
What Are The Symptoms Of An Atypical Migraine
The symptoms of an atypical migraine can be similar to a textbook description of a migraine, but there also can be additional symptoms. The symptoms linked to atypical migraines can include:
- impaired vision
These symptoms can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
Due to the prolonged discomfort of an atypical migraine, it isnt uncommon to find it difficult to work or participate in activities you normally enjoy. You may find it comforting to take a nap in a quiet, dark place until the uncomfortable symptoms pass.
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Common Symptoms Of A Migraine
The main symptom of a migraine is usually an intense headache on 1 side of the head.
The pain is usually a moderate or severe throbbing sensation that gets worse when you move and prevents you carrying out normal activities.
In some cases, the pain can occur on both sides of your head and may affect your face or neck.
Migraine Treatment And Home Remedies
There’s no cure for migraine headaches. But many drugs can treat or even prevent them. Common migraine treatments include:
You may ease migraine symptoms by:
- Resting with your eyes closed in a dark, quiet room
- Putting a cool compress or ice pack on your forehead
- Drinking plenty of liquids
Complementary and alternative treatments
Some people get relief with therapies they use in addition to or instead of traditional medical treatment. These are called complementary or alternative treatments. For migraine, they include:
- Biofeedback. This helps you take note of stressful situations that could trigger symptoms. If the headache begins slowly, biofeedback can stop the attack before it becomes full-blown.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy . A specialist can teach you how actions and thoughts affect how you sense pain.
- Supplements. Research has found that some vitamins, minerals, and herbs can prevent or treat migraines. These include riboflavin, coenzyme Q10, and melatonin. Butterbur may head off migraines, but it can also affect your liver enzymes.
- Body work. Physical treatments like chiropractic, massage, acupressure, acupuncture, and craniosacral therapy might ease headache symptoms.
Talk to your doctor before trying any complementary or alternative treatments.
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Types Of Ocular Migraines
- Migraine With Aura
Ocular migraine with aura is a recurring headache that typically starts at the same time or after sensory disturbances known as an aura. These disturbances include visual changes such as blind spots, tingling in your face or hands. At times, the aura can occur without having a headache.
- Retinal Migraine
These migraines typically refer to symptoms that manifest only in one eye during or before the headache phase of the migraine episode. Retinal migraines tend to happen repetitively and are short-lasting accompanied by blindness or diminished vision.
The loss of vision is not related to migraines. A more severe underlying condition causes the loss of vision. You might need to see a doctor immediately to get your eyes checked.
Finding Sweet Sweet Relief
While over-the-counter meds like ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, or acetaminophen may work wonders for the occasional migraine attack, they arent one-size-fits-all.
Some attacks require something a bit more powerful, while others can be defeated through the use of non-medicinal home remedies.
Heres a look at common treatment options.
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Phases Of A Migraine Attack
Prodrome Phase This first phase of migraine can occur hours to days prior to the attack, says Dr. Spears. It typically involves a change in mood and energy certain cravings or excessive yawning can be a sign of prodrome, he says.
People sometimes confuse these prodrome, or premonitory, symptoms, with migraine triggers. Thats to say, a person who craves chocolate as a prodrome symptom may mistakenly believe that consuming chocolate triggered the migraine attack, according to MigraineAgain.
Aura About 25 to 35 percent of people with migraine have aura, says Spears. The most common aura is a visual change with a kaleidoscope-like phenomenon that can last anywhere from five minutes to an hour but usually much less than an hour, he says. Other aura symptoms may include tingling sensations, numbness, garbled speech, and clumsiness or weakness.
Headache Phase This stage can last 4 to 72 hours, and in most patients, its marked by a headache on one side of the head thats throbbing and pulsating in quality. Typically, the pain is described as moderate to severe, says Spears.
The headache phase is also associated with becoming sensitive to the environment, he adds. Light, sound, and odor sensitivity are common, as are nausea and vomiting, he says.
Vestibular Migraine: History Definition And Diagnosis
You might be surprised to learn that vestibular migraine is a relatively recent diagnostic term, describing the vertigo, dizziness and disequilibrium symptoms that are caused by migraine. In fact, it was not until 2013 that vestibular migraine was added to the International Classification of Headache Disorders , with the following criteria proposed for diagnosis:
These advancements in the clinical definition of vestibular migraine were shaped by decades of study on the causal link between vertigo, dizziness and migraineoften labeling it as migraine-associated vertigo or migrainous vertigo. Many studies have since identified migraine as one of the leading causes of vestibular symptoms , with an estimated global prevalence of 1 percent having vestibular migraine. However, the actual number of patients who experience vertigo during migraine attacks may actually be much higher.1
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What To Do If You Have Chronic Migraines
Managing the pain and frequency of chronic migraines requires interacting with a specialist and creating a personalized plan to address chronic migraine symptoms. Treating chronic migraines can be a complex process and requires the knowledge and expertise of specialists. The specialists atStop Migraines have the training and experience to help those who suffer from chronic migraines and create a treatment plan that is personalized and effective for managing the pain and irritation of chronic migraines.
If you or someone you know is suffering from chronic migraines,contact us to ask about our wide range of pain management and therapies for chronic migraines.
Acute Drug Treatment To Stop A Migraine Attack
There are several different medication options for treating a migraine attack once its begun. The type of migraine you have as well as the frequency and severity of your attacks is something you should discuss with your doctor when developing a treatment plan.
For people with mild to moderate symptoms, over-the-counter medications are often sufficient to relieve them, according to the American Migraine Foundation. These include:
Your doctor may also prescribe any of a number of drugs for acute treatment of migraine. Generally speaking, acute migraine treatments work better the earlier in the attack you take them, before the pain has gotten severe. Triptans are the most commonly used acute migraine medications, and gepants and ditans are two new classes of migraine drugs that may be helpful if you cant take triptans or are not helped by them.
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Vertigo And Other Vestibular Symptoms
Ongoing vertigo is the hallmark of vestibular migraine, but there are multiple types of vertigo that can manifest. These include:
a) spontaneous vertigo, characterized by a false sense of self-motion OR a spinning environmentb) positional vertigo, which stems from shifting of the head to a different positionc) visually-induced or visual vertigo that is triggered by complex moving stimulid) head motion-induced vertigo, which occurs during the actual movement of the heade) head motion-induced dizziness with nausea
Generally, spontaneous rotational vertigo and head motion intolerance were most frequently reported by patients with vestibular migraine attacks.1,3,6 In addition, the average duration of vestibular migraine vertigo is 3 hours and typically lasts longer on so-called headache daysalthough it can occur prior to attacks and during symptom-free periods as well.6 And no matter how it is experienced, it is no fun for a person who has to deal with these problems. Take Jamie for instance who described her vestibular migraine symptoms like this:
“I instantly become dizzy, get tunnel vision, basically cannot see what is in front of me, my cognitive processes slow way down, and I get many other neurological and vestibular symptoms. This has rendered it impossible for me to spend much time in stores at all. As a style blogger, I am invited to events, spend time in airports , and I like to shop . Hence, this makes normally fun activities quite stressful for me.”
What Medicines Help Relieve Migraine Pain
For mild to moderate migraines, over-the-counter medicines that may help relieve migraine pain include:
- an acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine combination
People who have more severe migraines may need to try abortive prescription medicines. A medicine called ergotamine can be effective alone or combined with other medicines. Dihydroergotamine is related to ergotamine and can be helpful. Other prescription medicines for migraines include sumatriptan, zolmitriptan, naratriptan, rizatriptan, almotriptan, eletriptan, and frovatriptan.
If the pain wont go away, stronger pain medicine may be needed, such as a narcotic, or medicines that contain a barbiturate . These medicines can be habit-forming and should be used cautiously. Your doctor may prescribe these only if they are needed and only for a short period of time.
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