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Recognizing the 4 stages of a migraine

Thursday - 7/11/2013, 5:06am  ET

WASHINGTON - Migraine sufferers know the familiar symptoms that come with the headaches -- intense throbbing pain, sensitivity to light and occasional nausea -- but they may not realize that migraines occur in stages.

While not everyone gets every symptom, recognizing the symptoms can help sufferers and their doctors develop long-term treatment plans.

Dawn C. Buse, associate professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and the director of behavioral medicine at Montefiore Headache Center tells The Huffington Post that the early symptoms of a migraine can be frightening and can appear 24 hours before the headache.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the first stage of symptoms, called prodrome, can begin 24 hours or more before the actual migraine sets in.

Prodome symptoms can include constipation or diarrhea, craving certain foods, irritability, uncontrollable yawning, increased urination, fatigue and depression or euphoria.

The second stage is called aura and deals with sensory experiences. It happens either right before the pain starts or as it begins. Symptoms include seeing shapes or flashes of light, vision loss, speech problems and tingling in the limbs.

Mayo Clinic refers to the third stage as the attack. This is the crux of the migraine and can last a few hours to a few days. This can include pain on one or both sides of the head, pulsating, sensitivity to light, sounds and smells, nausea and vomiting and even fainting.

The final stage is postdome. Most people feel exhausted and drained after the migraine ends. The Mayo Clinic says some people feel euphoric. Others may be confused.

Talking to a doctor and keeping an eye on symptoms in all their stages can help prepare for migraines and even help diagnose larger problems. As anyone who suffers knows, a migraine isn't just a headache. But sometimes, a migraine isn't just a migraine either.

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