10 Things No One Tells You About Migraines

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I've had a perma migraine for the best part over a decade, so I've learnt loads about what can happen. Here are some things that no one told me about migraines that I really wasn't expecting. These points may help you identify a migraine coming on quickly, or help you understand your symptoms.



Note: these symptoms may be caused by things other than migraines. If they happen to you, see a doctor/neurologist and get to the bottom of it. 

cw: emetophobia (point 8)


1. Visual disturbance is flipping weird

I'd heard people say that you can get weird lights and things with a migraine but hadn't appreciated the range. The first time I ever had a migraine, it looked like everything was made of pixels. I've had wibbly lines like when you look at a light bulb for too long that float across my vision. I've had zigzags. And having to concentrate really hard to see clearly. As soon as I get it, I grab the pain killers or...


2. Sometimes you really need carbs and caffeine

You may find yourself craving carby goodness. Won't work for everyone, but sometimes sugary coke / something big and carby will stave off a migraine and leave me functional. 


3. Parts of you going numb

I've had my entire left side feel like it's gone, random fingers go pins and needly, my mouth feel like it's actively there... no one needs to be that aware of the roof of their mouth. This is scary and inconvenient. It tends to happen on the opposite side to where the pain is in your head, so maybe something in your brain is swelling on the nerves running down. 


4. Mood swings

Migraine euphoria is a thing; you can find yourself giddy as a kipper and then crash, sadness, exhaustion, sleep now... It took me a while to make a connection to migraines, though the link seems obvious once you know about it. 


5. Evangelical "helpful" suggestions

People tend to be evangelical about things that have stopped them being ill / in pain. People will suggest all of the pills, which may work for you or may not. Someone will always suggest drinking water. Who knew you could drink water? Feel free to try things, but nothing is guaranteed. And be very suspicious of anyone offering "cures". So if I take this, I'll never have a migraine ever again? Sceptical. 


6. Runny / blocked up nose 

I had a permanent runny nose for months - I put it down to hay fever. my neurologist said it could be down to migraines - after a migraine it can take up to three days for your hormones / toxin levels to return to normal. So your body is trying to fight infection. You may also find you get breakouts or more sensitive skin.

7. Forgetting words

I had to phone into work sick, and couldn't remember the word "register" - I tried "word name list book". I've also swapped words without realising - replacing "children" with "goat" and not realising. You may find it actively difficult to complete a sentence or find yourself tripping over words. This is a clear sign to have a rest.


8. Horrible nausea

I'm lucky enough to rarely have nausea, but when it happens... eurgh. Sometimes I just need to get on with throwing up so I can get better and get on with it. Not a fan of vomiting, but sometimes it's inevitable. Some pain killers can make your stomach more sensitive. Talk to your doctor if you have regular nausea and see if there's anything that can help.


9. Cool packs and dark rooms are your friend

Sometimes you just need to rest. A cool pack on the forehead, a dark room and a snooze (if you can) means you may be ready to roll later. Don't always try to fight through it. 


10. Being sensitive to smells / tastes

You may find that perfumes smell far too strong, or you're very aware of scents that would usually be in the background. You may also find that your painkillers which are usually a bit crumbly/gross are inedible. Or you're really aware that your feet are a bit smelly when they're usually not. If this happens, grab whatever makes you feel a bit better.


You may find that you don't have any of these symptoms, or only a few. We're all different and, honestly, I do hope you don't get most of these, as they're far from pleasant.


What signs do you get when a migraine is coming on, and what has helped you?