5 Signs You’re Having A Migraine & Don’t Even Know It

5 Signs You’re Having A Migraine & Don’t Even Know It

While most severe migraine sufferers will say you’ll know when you’re having one, the symptoms aren't always that obvious – in fact, they might not even include a headache. So to mark the start of Migraine Awareness Week, we’ve compiled a list of the signs you could be experiencing the condition without even realising…

1. Your Symptoms Appear At The Same Time Each Month 

As the NHS explains, one of the main triggers of migraines is hormonal changes – meaning more than half of female sufferers experience them around the time of their period. These type of migraines usually occur between two days before the start of your period to three days after, due to the natural drop in oestrogen levels.

If this is the case, the combined contraceptive pill could be a treatment option. “Some women find their headaches improve while they're on the pill, but others report more frequent attacks, especially in the pill-free week, when oestrogen levels drop,” the National Migraine Centre advises.

2. You’re Going Through The Menopause

Although many women find their migraines improve after the menopause, both the menopause and perimenopause (the transition into menopause) can actually trigger migraines or make them worse if you’re already a sufferer.

The Migraine Trust ​ says that, in these cases, hormones as a trigger factor for migraine should settle within two to five years after the menopause, but that you should also consider if there’s anything else at play: “Other non-hormonal triggers may become more obvious after your menopause, as well as additional ones that develop such as neck tension.”

3. Your Symptoms Appear After Sex

Sex may have been heralded as a better cure for a headache than paracetamol, but the pain-killing endorphins released during orgasms can actually trigger a migraine. The Association of Migraine Disorders believes there are two possible explanations for this: firstly, that the physical activity that accompanies sexual activity, especially involving muscle tissue in the back, neck and face; and secondly, the link between migraines and mood.

As to how your mood can trigger a migraine? Experts believe they can be triggered by temporary changes in brain chemistry, and experiencing certain emotions – such as excitement and tension – causes these changes, due to the chemicals released by the body.

4. You’re Under A Lot Of Stress 

According to the NHS, stress and anxiety are two of the biggest emotional triggers for migraines, while symptoms associated with stress – including tiredness, poor quality sleep, and neck and shoulder tension – are some of the main physical ones.

Even if you’re not experiencing out-of-the-norm levels of stress, the National Migraine Centre says that even a particular busy period at work could be enough to cause a migraine, as more major triggers include dehydration, skipped or delayed meals, lack of exercise and caffeine – all common things in busy workplaces (how many of us turn to cups of coffee to get us through long days?).

5. You’re Having Unexplained Vision Problems

You don’t have to have a headache to be experiencing a migraine. Silent migraines, or acephalgic migraines as they’re officially known, are estimated to affect 1% of suffers – but experts believe this figure is much higher, as silent migraine cases are significantly unreported (as many people don’t realise their symptoms are actually a migraine).

Symptoms typically build over the course of five to 20 minutes and include seeing flashes or flickering light; seeing spots, stars, halos, circles, lines, other shapes or colours; blurry vision; loss of vision or blind spots; cloudy vision; seeing three-dimensional effects or geometric patterns; and seeing dark areas. Silent migraines can also cause sensory symptoms in the body such as tingling or numbness that spreads or moves from one body part to another; odd sensations in the hands and feet; weird feelings in the face and numbness in the tongue.

What To Do About It…

If you’re experiencing severe or frequent migraine symptoms (on more than five days a month), the NHS says you should see your GP even if painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen are effective at controlling the pain, as migraines are a complex neurological issue and preventative treatment could help.

When it comes to diagnosis, there’s no specific test, so your GP will look to identify a pattern in your symptoms. That’s why all experts advise starting a migraine diary; recording details about your attacks for a few weeks and taking it along to show your doctor. This diary should include the date, the time, what you were doing when the migraine began, how long the attack lasted, what symptoms you experienced and what at medication you took (if any).

The Migraine Trust says the six to eight hours prior to a migraine attack are also important to record – these details could include what medication or vitamins you took; what you ate; how much sleep you had; what exercise, social or work activity you did; what the weather was like. If applicable, recording details of your menstrual cycle each month can also be helpful.
Read more about migraine symptoms, including when to seek emergency medical help, at NHS.uk; for further advice on starting a migraine diary, including free downloadable templates, visit MigraineTrust.org

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