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Migraines & headaches health centre

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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.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on August 05, 2016

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