The Space in Between: Interictal Migraine Phase
Last updated: September 2022
People like me who suffer from chronic migraine may have no real relief from their migraine attacks. Even with treatment, we still suffer from those symptoms. The term interictal phase describes the non-headache parts of a migraine cycle. Basically, an interictal period is a period between our attacks or a non-headache phase of an attack in which we are still experiencing symptoms. Prodrome or premonitory and postdrome are considered the two non-headache phases of an attack. I will normally experience headache through the entire migraine cycle due to another headache condition I live with called NDPH (new daily persistent headache).
A grey area
In my opinion, the interictal phase is a grey area. As I said, I experience symptoms all through a migraine cycle, such as sensitivity to light, certain sounds, nausea/vomiting, and an overall hypersensitivity to the various stimuli around me. As I researched more about this phase, I could see how neuropsychiatric symptoms could be overlooked as part of the migraine cycle. Symptoms like feeling drained, tired, moody or emotional, and having food cravings can easily be disassociated with migraine. Many of us, myself included, track our migraines and symptoms. This is a good tool for helping us forecast when we may experience an attack. Prodrome symptom tracking can be very helpful in this interictal phase.
Anxious about the next migraine attack
Another interictal phase symptom that many of us experience is anxiety. We worry about when our next attack will come. Will it come? How severe will it be? Do I have enough abortives to ease the attack? These are just a few questions that can run rampant in our minds. Due to this type of anxiety, I am guilty of changing or canceling plans or commitments. I try not to let migraine get the better of me, but at times it still does. I also wonder sometimes if the anxiety about having another bad attack could be a trigger for me. I'm kind of a nerd, so I guess I'll add that to my tracking of migraines!
Which came first?
Interictal symptoms seem to be most prominent in the prodrome phase. Many of the symptom types in this phase appear to pose the question, "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" It made me look at things through a different lens. Was the food I ate that triggered my attack, or was the craving for that food the real trigger? Is being in a bad mood or overly sensitive with the people I interact with a symptom or a potential trigger? Which is the defining symptom? I am a logical thinker. I wonder if I can pick up on these subtle symptoms and change the way I navigate them to help prevent attacks? As with all things migraine related, I know I can't be alone in this somewhat turbulent sea. I'd love to hear about others' thoughts and experiences with their migraine cycles.
How many medications do you take to manage your chronic migraines?