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20 Photos That Show What Migraine Really Looks Like

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If you’ve never experienced a migraine, it can be difficult to fathom just how painful and severe the symptoms can be – especially when they are so often invisible. Migraine is a complex neurological disease, causing many more issues than “just a headache,” and it is different for every individual. Migraineurs may experience nausea, dizziness, vertigo, sensitivity to light and sound, numbness or even temporary paralysis. But even if you can’t always “see” a person’s symptoms, it doesn’t make their battle any less valid.

In partnership with The Daily Migraine, we asked their community as well as our Mighty community to share photos that show what life with migraine really looks like. Although many aspects of migraine may be invisible, these photos reveal the strength of those who continue to fight for their health.

Here’s what the communities shared with us:

1. “This is trying to be brave during a treatment that wasn’t working. Classic brave face, my mouth is smiling, but the lines under my eyes show how tired I am, my skin shows how unhealthy I am and my eyes hold all my pain and fear. Not many people usually look that close though.”

woman wearing bandana and wrapped in a blanket with IV's in her arm

2. “Day of Botox treatment. Always get a migraine right after for about three to seven days. Aura, headache, problems speaking, light and noise sensitivity, skin sensitivity, pain in neck.”

woman sitting in her car with a red face from botox treatment

3. “My migraines mean I’m stuck in my dark room alone, surrounded by ice packs, but my cat will still comfort me.”

woman's tattooed arm and cat

4. “I don’t even know what to say really… chronic illness causes every symptom possible. Migraines are just another rain drop during a storm.”

woman in red tank top

5. “This is me and my daughter. We are out in public and smiling for her 21st birthday. Look closer and you will see the very dark circles under both our eyes. We had planned on a movie but knew we couldn’t handle it. Read the menu so many times and still couldn’t comprehend what it said. Luckily we had a kind and patient waitress.”

mother and daughter smiling

6. “Severe light sensitivity. Nausea. Pounding on one side of head. Hot flashes. Cat cuddles.”

black and white photo of woman lying on couch wearing sunglasses and holding her cat

7. “With a level of pain nine or 10 migraine. [I] feel very dizzy and all around [there is] darkness. Now in hospital bed…”

woman wearing a hijab and lying in a hospital bed

8. “Whenever I have a migraine you can see it. My eye droops and my side of my face swells every time. I sometimes wish I could stick my head into a vice and squeeze until the pressure stops. Or quite frequently I think and wish I could drill holes into my skull to release the pressure and make the pounding stop.”

woman with one side of her face drooping

9. “Migraine is not being able to leave the house (ever, even for a second) without my survival kit! Sunglasses for the sun and bright lights, sleep mask for when it’s too bright even with sunglasses, ear plugs, face mask to escape all the migraine inducing perfumes and other smells and all sorts of rescue meds (imitrex, naproxen, fiorcet, Benadryl, zofran).”

migraine gear

10. “I was in a migraine hospital. I had a lumbar puncture and ended up with an LP headache. I couldn’t sit up or it felt like my head was going to detach from my body. Even laying down I still had a migraine. I had to get a blood patch. I was alone. In pain. Missing my husband and puppy. The pic was for him. Always smiling.”

woman smiling and giving a thumbs up in a hospital bed

11. “Had a migraine off and on all day today. What you don’t see is that my vision in my left eye was absolutely black (no vision) when I took this photo.”

woman lying in bed with swollen cheeks

12. “Migraine triggered by dehydration on day one of the Susan G. Komen three-day. Nausea. Vomiting. Light sensitivity. Constant, intense pressure coupled with continuous throbbing. Reglan, morphine and two or three bags of saline for a few hours in a darkened room in the ER and then back to base camp for more walking.”

woman in an ambulance

13. “Trying to get ready to go out with your friends but you are too ashamed to tell them you might have to cancel on them again because your world is spinning and you don’t want to get off the floor.”

purse contents and dogs lying on floor

14. “Migraine! Head pain of seven, vomiting, body aches of five, blurry vision, and it came on without warning Sunday afternoon!”

woman sitting in a chair with her head resting on her hand

15. “What do you do for someone in so much pain? He gets dizzy, stomach ache, head about to explode and overheating.”

boy lying on couch with an ice pack on his head

16. “This is what only four hours of work did to me 90 percent of the time. I had throbbing pain and pressure all around my head with frequent ice pick pain in my right frontal lobe. I have my icepack eye mask and took my emergency pain meds. I also have a TENS unit stimulating my vagus nerve. I was trying everything to stop the pain. It makes it difficult to do anything besides lay in a dark quiet room. I left my job about a month ago because my body couldn’t take it anymore.”

woman wearing glasses with an ice pack on her head

17. “Chronic daily migraine… my pain level is a norm five to seven every day. That’s not counting nausea, all over allodynia, dizziness, vertigo and light sensitivity. 24/7, 365. This is my migraine life.”

photos of woman with and without makeup and styled hair

18. “My migraine is like the sun in this picture, my head burning like a ball of fire, blinding me and raging against all rational thought and peace.”

setting sun that looks like a fiery red ball

19. “This is me without migraine vs. me with migraine. My eyes aren’t normally quite that puffy but I was also having an allergic reaction that day. It’s also hard to see but my face droops a little. I have to lay down because I get super dizzy and ice numbs the pain so I can sleep. I also have to have a fan, A/C or an open window because being hot makes my symptoms worse.”

side by side photos of a woman dressed up with makeup on, and lying in bed with a migraine

20. “Magnesium infusion received today… I drive four hours once a week to receive these. This is my third one. Hoping they begin to make a difference!”

woman receiving magnesium infusion

Originally published: August 16, 2017
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