Migraine - Symptoms

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What migraine headache symptoms do you experience?

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What are the signs and symptoms of migraines?

The International Headache Society defines episodic migraine as being unilateral, pulsing discomfort of moderate-to-severe intensity, which is aggravated by physical activity and associated with nausea and/or vomiting as well as photophobia and/or phonophobia (sensitivity to light and sound). A migraine headache typically lasts for several hours up to several days.

Many patients describe their headache as a one-sided, pounding type of pain, with symptoms of nausea and sensitivity to light, sound, or smells (known as photophobia, phonophobia, and osmophobia). In some cases, the discomfort may be bilateral. The pain of a migraine is often graded as moderate to severe in intensity. Physical activity or exertion (walking up stairs, rushing to catch a bus or train) will worsen the symptoms.

Up to one-third of patients with migraines experience an aura, or a specific neurologic symptom, before their headache begins. Frequently, the aura is a visual disturbance described as a temporary blind spot which obscures part of the visual field. Flashing lights in one or both eyes, sometimes surrounding a blind spot, have also been described. Other symptoms, including numbness or weakness along one side, or speech disturbances, occur rarely.

Eye pain which is different from sensitivity to light is not a common component of migraine. If eye pain is a persistent symptom, or if eye pain is present and accompanied by blurred vision or loss of vision, then prompt evaluation is recommended.

In comparison, a tension headache is described as being bilateral and the pain is not pulsating, but feels like pressure or tightness. While severity can be mild-to-moderate, the headache is not disabling and there is no worsening of the pain with routine physical activity; additionally, there is no associated nausea, vomiting, photophobia, or phonophobia.

No specific physical findings are found when patients are experiencing a routine migraine headache. If an abnormality is identified on physical examination, there should be suspicion of another cause for the headache.

Return to Migraine Headache

See what others are saying

Comment from: migrainesufferer, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: April 08

I have always experienced an aura before my migraine. I found out recently that that isn't the norm. Headache without aura or classic migraine is the norm. My auras have consisted of everything including blindness in one and scotomas. I went from having yearly migraines to monthly ones and now take a preventative every day, which has been a god send. I went from having 3 to 4 headaches to maybe one and the pain is greatly diminished. Don't give up hope, fellow sufferers.

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Comment from: Subbersam, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: April 11

I have always had headaches, but when they started lasting for hours and even days despite the use of double doses of OTC pain relievers I knew it was time to see a professional. My first real bad one was the most memorable. I remember turning to a flickering light and flinching because I thought something was flying towards my face, but there was nothing there. When a co-worker saw me flinch he asked me what was wrong. I remember being scared when I turned to look at him and I could literally see the sound waves resonating from his face. I tried to stand up for some reason, I was disoriented and I thought my blood sugar had dropped severely so I made my way to the fridge for a Coke. I was crazy thirsty. The phone rang and about knocked me over as it echoed in my head. I excused myself from work and as I drove to the hospital I became suddenly ill. I pulled over and the vomit was yellow and slimy. When I got there I had to place a coat over my head because the light felt like it went straight through my pupils and directly into my brain like a laser. I don"t know if I fell asleep or passed out but at some point I was woken up by a doctor and two nurses and my head was still pounding. I began shifting back and forth as I sat there listening, like if I sat still it hurt more. I ended up getting a shot and a prescription for some stuff that was supposed to help. There were absolutely no narcotics given to me, but the relief of it all when it was over was practically euphoric. In later incidences I mostly recall a lot of pacing; the ability to stay still is lost in these cases. I also experience nausea, sensitivity to light and sound.

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