Migraine Headache Symptoms

Although migraines are known best as headaches, there are many migraine headache symptoms which frequently accompany the headache. In fact, some individuals who suffer from migraines don't have actual pain in the head at all! Some of these characteristics of the headache as well as the other associated symptoms can help to distinguish migraine from other types of headache.

Patients who suffer from migraines generally have recurrent attacks of headaches of varying frequency. Each attack can last from only a few hours up to several days. Some of the common migraine headache symptoms are discussed below:

The Headache Itself:

  • The headaches associated with migraines most commonly only affect one side of the head at a time (unilateral headaches), although the side which is affected often changes from one headache to the next.
  • The headaches come on as intense, throbbing or pounding pain on the side of the head in the area of the temple, forehead, eye or back of the head.
  • Although headaches on only one side is most common, it is not uncommon to have headaches that affect both sides as well (bilateral headaches).
  • Migraine headaches are often made worse by trying to do daily activities such as any physical exertion.

Other Neurological Symptoms: In addition to the headache, most migraine sufferers complain of other symptoms which can be associated with effects on the nervous system.

  • Nausea and Vomiting are common during attacks.
  • Pallor and cold sensitivity with facial pallor and cold hands and feet.
  • Photophobia and phonophobia are the term for sensitivity to light and sound. Because of this sensitivity, it is usually most comfortable for patients to want to rest in a dark, quiet room.

Migraine Aura and Premonitory Symptoms: Many individuals with a history of migraines describe migraine headache symptoms that proceed the actual headache attack. Some are vague complaints while others, like a scotoma, seem very specific to the nervous system. They include:

  • Seeing lights - some patients say they see flashing, brightly colored lights. They usually start in the middle of the field of vision and move outward, often in a zig zag pattern.
  • A scotoma is a hole in the field of vision, also called a blind spot.
  • Vague symptoms that may proceed an attack include general fatigue and sleepiness, irritability, depression or euphoria, and cravings for sweet or salty food.



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Important Note: This site is not intended to offer medical advice. Every patient is different, and only your personal physician can help to counsel you about what is best for your situation. What we offer is general reference information about various disorders and treatments for your education.

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