Migraine Headache Symptoms

The primary symptom of a migraine headache is an intense throbbing pain, usually towards the front or side of the head.  Migraines can last from anywhere between 4 and 72 hours and can be accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and visual disturbances.

Different people experience different symptoms and different time periods between migraine attacks. Some people get migraines every week while others may get them only once or twice a year.

Migraine with Aura

Around 25% of migraine sufferers get warning symptoms within only an hour of getting a migraine. This is known as 'aura' and is a special type of feeling that a migraine is about to start. Symptoms may include:

  • Visual symptoms - You may see flashing lights or zig zag lines in your vision, lose site in one or both eyes

  • Pins and needles - Usually in the hands, neck and shoulders.

  • Raised or dull senses - you may become irritable and withdraw from people

  • Food cravings - especially for sweet foods

  • Loss of coordination - you may feel disorientated, or off-balance and have difficulty speaking


A migraine headache has a throbbing pain and is typically very severe. The pain is usually felt on one side of the head. The headache can last anywhere from 4 hours to 3 days. Many migraine sufferers have other headache types as well e.g. muscle tension headaches and rebound headaches.

Other Migraine Symptoms

Other symptoms often accompany a migraine headache. These may include:

  • Nausea and vomitting

  • Poor concentration

  • Sweating

  • Sensitivity to bright lights and noise

  • Stomach ache and diarrhoea

  • Increased urination

Migraine Symptoms Quick List

Migraines are a chronic condition and a single episode can produce some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Unilateral (one-sided) or bilateral (affecting both sides) headache

  • Pain that worsens with physical activity

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Sensitivity to light and sound

  • Prodromal symptoms (symptoms that appear before the migraine) such as irritability, sleeplessness, craving for sweets, feelings of elation or energy, and drowsiness

  • An 'aura' 15-30 minutes before the headache. Auras may be flashing lights, a slowly spreading blind spot, or a tingling sensation in the arms or legs.

  • Temporary neurological deficits such as fainting, paralysis or weakness of one side of the body, or double vision.

Migraine Symptoms in Children

Young children who get migraines will often complain of a tummy ache (also called an abdominal migraine). They may get other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, increased urination, sweating and thirst. If your child gets lots of tummy aches and you are not sure why talk to your doctor about whether they may be migraines.

After the migraine attack

Once the severe headache has gone, most people get the feeling of being 'washed out' or get tired achy muscles for about two days. Other people may feel happy and relaxed.



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