New Clues for Migraine Sufferers



The common conception regarding migraine headaches is that people know their migraine is coming on during the aura – sometimes a few minutes or a few hours before the migraine itself actually hits.  Usually during the aura a person will have visual disturbances such as seeing flashes of light, seeing spots and other odd visual issues.  In addition during aura, a person will often feel nauseated and possibly light headed.  If medication or other remedies or relief steps are taken during the aura – especially as close to the beginning as possible – there is a higher possibility that the migraine will never fully develop and the symptoms will subside.

Researchers have now found that it is often possible to receive and recognize clues about migraines 24 to 36 hours in advance or more.  This period, called the prodome, includes symptoms including a warped sense of smell or taste.  Dr. Allen Bernstein, a neurologist in Northern California, says that it is “like a truck coming down the road.  If you hit the brakes fast enough, you can stop it.”

Bernstein’s research has shown that some people start to throw food out, feeling that it smells bad.  Others have gone on a cleaning binge thinking that everything smells like mold.  When tracking how long before the migraine this happened, it was usually within the 24 to 36 hour window before the migraine headache appeared. 

Dr. Bernstein has presented his findings to the American Headache Society and the International Neuropsychological Society.  He usually treats individuals whose migraines disrupt their lives to the degree that they have to miss work repeatedly, miss plane flights due to nausea and vomiting from the headache, and other serious migraine issues.  He says that the hardest thing in diagnosing and treating individuals is to help them look backward 24 to 36 hours and remember what was happening that could be a clue for the future migraines they might experience. 

Dr. Bernstein feels that though a lot of progress has been made in the treatment of migraines, the ability to help individuals see the onset of the migraine 24 hours in advance and use the medication or other remedy at that time will often eliminate the migraine altogether.  He says that his goal is to “teach people to be their own best observer.”


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