Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Migraines & headaches health centre

Select a topic to explore more.
Select An Article

Migraine symptoms

Migraine symptoms will depend on the type of migraine, and different people will experience different symptoms.

Common migraine symptoms include:

  • Moderate to severe pain (often described as pounding, throbbing pain) that usually affects one side of the head but can affect the whole head, or can shift from one side of the head to the other
  • Sensitivity to light, noise or odours
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea or vomiting, stomach upset, abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sensations of being very warm or cold
  • Paleness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Fever (rare)
  • Bright flashing dots or lights, blind spots, wavy or jagged lines

Five phases of a migraine can often be identified:

  • Prodrome: A variety of warnings can come before a migraine. These may consist of a change in mood (such as feeling high, irritable or depressed) or a subtle change of sensation (such as a funny taste or smell). Fatigue and muscle tension are also common.
  • Aura: This is commonly a visual disturbance that precedes the headache. Some people who have migraines develop blind spots (called scotomas); see geometric patterns or flashing, colourful lights; or lose vision on one side (hemianopsia).
  • Headache: Although migraine pain usually occurs on one side of the head, 30 to 40 per cent of migraines occur on both sides. You may experience throbbing pain. More than 80 per cent of people with migraines feel nauseated and some vomit. About 70 per cent become sensitive to light (photophobia) and sound (phonophobia). This phase may last between four and 72 hours.
  • Headache termination: Even if untreated, the pain usually goes away with sleep.
  • Postdrome: Other signs of the migraine (such as an inability to eat, problems with concentration or fatigue) may linger after the pain has disappeared.

Seek medical advice about migraines if:

  • You have severe headaches.
  • You notice changes in your vision, weakness or paralysis in a body part, or difficulty with balance and walking, especially if these problems do not resolve after the headache is over.
  • You develop a high temperature or stiff neck.
  • You have unintentional weight loss.

Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 09, 2014

Mind, body & soul newsletter

Look after your health and wellbeing.
Sign Up

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

rash on skin
Soothe skin and prevent flare-ups
woman blowing nose
Myths & facts about allergies
cold sore
How to cope with cold sores
bowl of soup
Small changes that lead to weight loss
man administering eyedrops
Taking on eye allergies
palm tree and beach
How to make it less stressful
woman exercising
Exercises for low back pain
bain illustration
Best foods for your brain
bucket with cleaning supplies in it
Cleaning for a healthy home
mother and child
Could your baby be allergic to milk?
pregnant woman eating healthy salad
Nutrition needs before pregnancy