His eyes looked so bloodshot, they appeared to be on fire. It was then I knew he was about to have a severe migraine.
John is a migraine sufferer. He sometimes misses out on time with friends and family because of the debilitating pain. While he recognizes his migraine symptoms once the headache sets in, his attentive loved ones are an important part of getting migraine relief.
For example, John’s girlfriend has learned to see his migraines coming on because of the way his face flushes and then becomes suddenly pale in the minutes before a migraine. She curbs John’s migraine symptoms by getting him into a dark room and supplying lots of water and his medication.
As someone who knows or lives with a migraine sufferer, it’s important for you to understand what migraine warning signs look like from the outside. By spotting these signs early, you can take swift actions to limit symptoms and bring your friend or family member much needed migraine relief. The warning signs vary from person to person, but here are some of the most common ones to look for.
Flushed or pale face
“Red migraines” are when the sufferer’s face turns bright red and feels hot as though they have a fever. This occurs in less than one-tenth of cases, though. Most of the time, “white migraines” occur, which is when the person’s face becomes pale and ashen in color. The migraine sufferer may begin with a red face that abruptly turns pale in the first few minutes of the migraine attack. These warning signs are very noticeable and may be some of your best clues that a migraine is quickly approaching.
While this is more common with cluster headaches, it can also happen with migraines. Usually, both eyelids droop when the cause is an ophthalmoplegic migraine. This visual cue usually signifies that painful migraine symptoms are just moments away.
Migraines cause inflammation, especially in the head and facial area. The inflammation can cause the appearance of bloodshot eyes right before as well as during the migraine attack. As with drooping eyelids, bloodshot eyes are actually a more common symptom of cluster headaches.
Cold hands and feet or feeling hot all over
As the brain is bombarded by a migraine, it impacts many areas of the body, including temperature. The migraine sufferer may suddenly develop very cold hands or feet. Then, everything may shift and the entire body could feel hot all over. Tell your loved one to communicate these migraine symptoms with you to keep you in the loop. Be prepared for the migraine to set in quickly if your loved one reports this warning sign.
Fatigue and excessive yawning
Even with a good night’s sleep, your migraine suffering loved one may feel fatigued and yawn uncontrollably. These early signs can appear a full day or two before any head pain appears.
Irritability, restlessness, confusion or difficulty concentrating
The neurochemical events leading up to a migraine cause chemical imbalances and changes in the brainstem. Watch for these changes in mood and behavior as a sign that painful migraine symptoms could occur within 12 to 24 hours.
Depression or euphoria
Migraine symptoms clearly vary from person to person, since your loved one could experience either of these opposing feelings, signifying an imminent migraine. Be aware of these mood shifts and help your loved one if a migraine does indeed set in.
This symptom, technically referred to as aphasia, tends to last between five minutes and one hour. It can be frightening for the migraine sufferer to lose control of their speech and forget simple words, so be gentle and understanding. Have a plan for handling the situation already in place so you know how the migrainuer wants you to proceed.
If your loved one demands certain foods, some of which may include odd combinations, be on the lookout for other migraine symptoms within the next 12 to 24 hours.
The need to visit the bathroom more frequently is a subtle change you may notice in your loved one if a migraine is on its way. Increased urination may begin 12 to 24 hours prior to a migraine attack.
Clearly, some of these warning signs are immediate body language cues while others are drawn out over a day or two. No matter which warning signs clue you in, remember it isn’t necessarily best to immediately intervene and take control of the situation; instead, it’s important to be aware of these warning signs and be there to support the migraine sufferer.
In the end, communication is the best solution for everyone. Speak with your migraine suffering friend or family member about their migraine triggers or changes in migraine symptoms and other patterns. Remain aware of any new developments to make understanding and helping your loved one that much easier.
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