Migraine is not invisible!

We’ve all heard migraine described as an “invisible illness”, but to the experienced eye, migraine isn’t invisible at all. Even when we actively try to hide it, there are tiny visible cues if someone knows what to look for.

  • “The look”
    Fellow migraineurs can always recognize it. It’s that telltale expression we all get. To outsiders, it looks like a scowl, but we know better. It’s that squint-scowl-wince-try-not-to-puke look. Our eyes get that “blank stare” look and pupils may become smaller as we reflexively try to block out the light.
  • Pale skin
    We lose that healthy rosy glow. No amount of make-up can truly hide that ghost-white migraine mask. We can become so pale that others think we are going into shock.
  • Popping and/or stretching the neck
    We do this without thinking when the early warning neck stiffness sets in.
  • Closing and/or rubbing the eyes
    Light hurts, so we automatically take mini-breaks. Our eyes get sore just from being open. If we must stay awake, we compromise by giving ourselves a little reprieve.
  • Rubbing the forehead and temples
    We just can’t help it. No matter how hard we try to disguise our pain, this instinctive behavior is a dead giveaway, especially if it’s one-sided.
  • Vomiting
    Yeah, there’s really no way to hide this ugly reality.
  • Yawning
    This usually starts well in advance of the pain, but can continue throughout the migraine attack.  We’re not really sleepy. It’s just an involuntary reflex that’s part of the attack.
  • Sweating
    The pain can trigger cold sweats or hot flashes even if we are trying to hide the truth of an attack.
  • Sound aversion
    Complaints about noise, others talking too loudly, music playing too loudly, etc. are dead giveaways that a migraine attack is in progress.
  • Word loss
    We can’t think straight. We lose our train of thought and have difficulty following a conversation. We struggle to find the words to express our thoughts.
  • Garbled, incoherent speech
    Sometimes the words just don’t come out right.
  • Paralysis
    For those who have hemiplegic migraines, the signs are even more obvious.  The face might droop on one side, speech is slurred, and one side of the body might become completely paralyzed.

Let’s challenge the idea that migraine is “invisible” by educating others about the signs to watch for. Can you think of other visible signs of a migraine attack?

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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