Prodrome, It’s Just the Beginning
Last updated: September 2022
Prodrome is the first stage of symptoms for a migraine attack. It can start hours or even days before the attack begins. It is subtle and often creeps into our lives without being immediately noticed. There is a laundry list of symptoms that can be part of this phase, and here are just a few of them: irritability, yawning, food cravings, light sensitivity, fatigue, muscle stiffness, nausea, and difficulty with reading and speaking. For me, I identify with yawning excessively and the muscle stiffness combined with fatigue. Even though I know these are prodrome symptoms, I still don't always catch on until I get into the aura phase of an attack or the attack itself.
Subtle migraine warning signs
I've had migraine for several years and have undergone countless tests. There is constant prodding and poking in the hopes that the next test will yield some viable results. Unfortunately, it has been my experience that all the tests don't take care of any of my prodrome symptoms. I guess it really doesn't matter too much as it relates to my daily routine. As I said before, prodrome symptoms for me are subtle and seem to roll in like a light fog.
I tend to keep myself busy so some symptoms like food cravings and fatigue generally come without me really taking note. Other symptoms like light sensitivity and nausea are a little more upfront and noticeable. Once I notice these symptoms, I know I usually have about an hour left where I can push myself to get things accomplished before all bets are off.
My prodrome symptoms
Light sensitivity will continue to get worse and with the aura that accompanies the pending attack comes visual distortions in my left field of vision. I am also more aware of the stiffness and muscle fatigue. Somewhere in the late prodrome phase, I start to experience a flu-like drain on my energy reserves. It normally ramps up the irritability factor for me, which makes me more likely to snap at people! This is not great when trying to work with the public and supervise twenty or so employees. I've made many apologies, as you can imagine. My wife is usually the first to pick up on the irritability when I'm home, but she says she doesn't like to tell me about it for fear it will bring on the attack.
Time to take an abortive
By the time I'm at the end of the prodrome and going through my aura, I know it's time to try an abortive. If I take it too early, it hardly ever provides any relief, but if I take it too late, I'm out of luck too! Abortives for me have always been a double-edged sword, but I take them in the hopes that the timing is right and that they will work. I get relief about twenty-five percent of the time, and that relief is only mild to moderate. It's almost not worth the side effects.
The next day for me is the payback day. For me, abortives come with nasty gastrointestinal consequences. That being said, I know many people have great results from taking their abortives. I do believe they have a part in the fight against migraine. Prodrome, for me, ends with the painful part of the attack. I don’t wish it upon anyone, but I know I’m strong like only a migraineur can understand.
Do you have a migraine toolbox for when an attack hits?
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