Symptoms of Migraine

Everyone who has migraines experiences them a little differently, but there are some common symptoms that help differentiate migraines from other types of headache.

These include:
  • A throbbing headache, often starting on one side of your head
  • Pain that’s moderate to severe and lasts for at least several hours
  • Pain is worsened by physical activity
  • Extreme sensitivity to light or sound
  • Nausea or vomiting
In contrast, tension headaches are usually on both sides of the head and feel like pressure or tightness. These types of headaches don’t cause sensitivity to light or sound, and you won’t feel nauseous if you have a tension headache.

Migraines can sometimes have four stages, but not everyone experiences each stage. They can also vary somewhat with each attack. Looking for patterns, particularly in how your migraines usually start, can help you identify and treat your migraine as soon as possible.

Many migraines have the following progression:


You may be able to notice some common signs before you have a full-blown migraine. Some people will experience some of the following symptoms a day or two before their pain actually starts:
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • A change in appetite – either a decreased appetite or food cravings
Aura is a group of neurological symptoms that can be associated with migraines. Some people mistakenly believe that if they don’t have aura, they don’t have a migraine, but this isn’t true. Most people with migraines don’t experience aura, but about 15 to 30 percent do.
Aura can cause symptoms such as visual disturbances including seeing wavy lines, flashing lights, or dark spots. An aura can also cause numbness, tingling, dizziness, or ringing in your ears.
If you do experience this stage, it usually lasts from just a few minutes up to 30 minutes, and it occurs before your migraine.

When a migraine starts, you’ll experience throbbing pain, usually starting on one side of your head. As it progresses, you may feel pain on both sides of your head. You may also experience nausea and vomiting and be sensitive to light and/or sound.

This stage can last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

After your migraine ends, you may feel drained or somewhat “hung over.” Conversely, some people feel as though they have more energy. You might also have changes in appetite.Migraines have some basic characteristics in common, but they can cause varying symptoms in different people. Learning how you normally react, especially before a migraine, can help you take steps such as lying down in a dark, quiet room, or starting medication as directed by your doctor.