Migraine: Types, Causes, Triggers, Symptoms, & Treatment

Are you having a severe headache the whole day? Or is it throbbing at one side of your head? Are you experiencing nausea and vomiting with the headache? Or whether it makes you become sensitive to light and sound?

If that’s the case then you might be suffering from Migraine which is a type of headache and is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain.

In this article, I will provide you with complete information about migraine including its symptoms, causes, treatment, diagnosis, prevention, risk factors, types, and triggers.

What is Migraine?

A migraine is a common, debilitating neurological disease that can last for hours or days. It is characterized by recurring attacks of moderate to severe headaches that are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Such an intense experience could be quite disabling and painful, preventing people from performing their usual daily activities.

Migraine affects around 1 in every 5 women and around 1 in every 15 men (1). It usually begins in early adulthood.

Some people experience a warning symptom known as an aura which occurs before or with the headache. An aura can include difficulty speaking, visual disturbances (such as flashes of light), or other disturbances (such as tingling on one side of the face).

Although migraines cannot be cured entirely using medications, a person can still be treated to reduce the symptoms and relieve them from their suffering.

Migraine headaches do not cause death. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, people with migraines are often good at minimizing pain. As a result, more than 1 in 5 people with migraines feel ignored by healthcare providers; they may be misdiagnosed, treated inadequately, or told that they were not really having a migraine.

What are The Symptoms of Migraine?

People having migraines usually have a chance to undergo 4 different stages namely pro-drome, aura, attack, and post-drome. Not everyone with migraine necessarily undergoes these stages. Some might and might not feel all these stages.

Let’s understand the symptoms of all these 4 stages.

ProdromeThe person who has a migraine may notice some subtle changes before 1 or 2 days of an upcoming migraine. That is the initial warning of a migraine.Frequent yawning, fluid retention, increased urination, neck stiffness, food cravings or lack of appetite, mood changes from depression to euphoria, constipation or diarrhea, bloating, severe thirst, fatigue, and being sensitive to light, sound, and smell.
AuraAura may occur before or during migraines. Usually, it starts gradually within a period of 5 to 20 minutes and can last up to 60 minutes. Symptoms of this stage stem from your nervous system and usually involve your vision.Difficulty speaking, Numbness or weakness in one side of the body or in the face, needles or pins sensations in legs or arms, vision loss, visual phenomena, like seeing flashes of light, bright spots, or various shapes, Changes in smell, taste, or touch, and Ringing in ears.
AttackMigraine attacks may occur rarely or several times in a month. How often the migraine attacks will occur, totally varies from person to person. It may remain from 4 to 72 hours if left untreated.Nausea and Vomiting, You may have sensitivity to sound, light, smell, and touch pain that pulses or throbs, You may have pain usually on one side of your head, but can be on both sides.
Post-dromeThis stage lasts up to 1 day after a migraine attack.You may feel confused, drained, and washed out. Some people feel elated Muscle pain or weakness Sudden head movement may bring on the pain again briefly    

What Are The Causes Of Migraines?

The causes of migraine still need to be understood. There are some environmental and genetic factors that may lead to migraine.

According to experts, the episodes of migraine might be caused due to changes happening in the brain that have an impact on blood vessels, the balance of chemicals, and the way nerves communicate.

Some genetic factors such as family history also play a major role in causing migraine.

The role of serotonin and other neurotransmitters including calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) also plays a significant role in causing the migraine.

Migraine Triggers

Migraine attacks can be triggered by a variety of factors called migraine triggers. Common migraine triggers include:


Migraines are also triggered by the use of salty and processed foods as well as aged cheeses.


Some medications including vasodilators (like nitroglycerin), sleeping pills, and oral contraceptives can aggravate migraines. 

Sensory Stimuli

Migraines may be induced by bright or flashing lights or loud sounds. Also, strong smells of secondhand smoke, paint thinner, perfume, etc. can trigger migraines in some persons.

Food Additives

The food additives that trigger migraine include preservative monosodium glutamate (MSG) and sweetener aspartame which may be found in many food items.

Physical Factors

Migraines may also be provoked by intense physical exertion which also includes sexual activity.

Sleep changes

Migraine also gets triggered due to lack of sleep or sleeping too much.

Weather changes

Barometric pressure or weather alteration may also prompt migraine.


Any stress whether it is related to personal or professional life might cause migraines.


Alcohol consumption (mainly wine), and consuming excessive caffeine (such as coffee) also sometimes lead to migraines.

Hormonal changes in women

Women may experience migraines during or before the menstrual cycle, menopause, and pregnancy due to fluctuations in estrogen levels.

Risk Factors For Migraine

People with certain conditions are at higher risk of developing migraine which includes:


Women are three times more likely to experience migraine than men.


Migraine can begin at any age, but it is mostly seen that the first migraine in any person is seen during adolescence. . Migraines tend to peak during your 30s, and slowly become less frequent and less severe in the following decades.

Family history

4 out of 5 people with migraines have other family members who get them. Children, whose one parent has a history of these types of headaches, have a 50% chance of getting them. And if both the parents have migraines, then the risk jumps to 75%.


People who smoke are more likely to get migraine attacks.


People having high-stress levels have migraines more often.

Other medical conditions.

Bipolar disorder, sleep disorders, and epilepsy can raise also raise the risk.

Diagnosis of Migraine

Neurologists (person expertise in treating headaches) can help to diagnose migraines depending on your symptoms, medical history, family history, and a physical and neurological examination.

According to the severity of the migraine, the neurologist will suggest you some lifestyle changes or prescribe medications. But if your condition is complex or suddenly becomes severe, then they will suggest some tests to rule out the possibility of other health conditions for your pain. These tests include:

Computerized tomography (CT scan)

A CT scan helps doctors to diagnose bleeding in the brain, brain damage, infections, tumors, or any other health condition that might cause headaches. 

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

An MRI helps to diagnose infections, bleeding in the brain, strokes, tumors, and other nervous system and brain conditions.

What are the Types of Migraine?

Migraines can be of several types. The most common types of migraines include migraine without aura (sensory changes) known as common migraine and migraine with aura known as classic migraine.

Many individuals living with migraine can have more than one type of migraine.

Types of migraines are as follows:

Migraine with Aura (Classical migraine)

An aura is a group of sensory, motor, and speech symptoms that usually act like warning signals in the early stages of a migraine episode. About 15 to 20 percent of people with migraine headaches experience an aura.

Migraine without Aura (Common Migraine)

People with this type of migraine headache experience no sensory disturbances before an episode. The symptoms are the same, but the aura phase doesn’t happen.

Ophthalmoplegic Migraine

This type of migraine causes pain around your eye. Also, your eye muscles may get paralyzed in ophthalmoplegic migraine. The person may also have other symptoms such as double vision, droopy eyelid, etc.

Status migrainosus

This is the most critical form of migraine in which nausea and pain are very severe. Usually, this migraine stays over 72 hours. Medication withdrawal, or certain medications, can cause this type of migraine.

Migraine with Brainstem aura

This type of migraine is strongly associated with hormonal changes and can majorly be seen in young adult women. In this type of migraine, dizziness, double vision, slurred speech, or loss of balance, can occur before the headache. And the pain may affect the back of your head.  These symptoms generally occur suddenly and can come along with ringing in the ears, inability to speak properly, and vomiting.

Ophthalmic Migraine

Ophthalmic migraine is also referred to as retinal or ocular migraine. It causes a temporary, partial, or complete loss of vision in one of your eyes, along with a dull ache behind the eye that may spread to the rest of your head. You should always report this type of migraine to a doctor because it could be a sign of a more serious issue.

Hemiplegic Migraine

You have temporary paralysis (hemiplegia) or neurological or sensory changes on one side of your body. The onset of the headache may be linked with a tingling sensation, temporary numbness, dizziness, weakness on one side of your body, or vision changes.

Vestibular Migraine

This type of migraine can be seen in people with a history of motion sickness. In this migraine, you may suffer from balance problems, vomiting, nausea, and vertigo, with or without a headache.

Abdominal Migraine

There is a lack of knowledge about this type of migraine. But mostly it is seen in children less than 14 years of age and it may take the form of classic migraine headaches with time. The symptoms of this type of migraine include vomiting, nausea, stomach pain, etc.

Silent Migraine

In this type of migraine, the person does not have a headache but has aura symptoms. It is also referred to as acephalgic migraine.

Menstrual Migraine

This type of migraine mainly refers to when the headache has a relation to a woman’s menstruation cycle.

What is the Treatment of Migraine?

Migraines are a neurological disorder that causes debilitating headaches. The pain can last for hours, days, or even weeks at a time. While there is no cure for migraines, there are several different treatment options available to help manage them.

The first step in treating migraines is identifying what triggers your migraine attacks. This may be as simple as changing the weather or eating certain foods. If you can find out what triggers your migraines and avoid those triggers, it’s likely that your migraines will be less frequent.

Another option is to take preventative medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen before you experience symptoms of a migraine attack. This can provide some relief from the pain if taken early enough before symptoms appear. However, these medications do not always work and should never be used without talking with a doctor first.

For those who suffer from chronic migraines that cannot be controlled by over-the-counter drugs or other lifestyle changes alone, prescription medications may be prescribed by a doctor based on individual needs. Some of these include triptans (which block pain pathways in the brain), corticosteroids (which reduce inflammation), ergotamine (which constrict blood vessels in the brain), and tricyclics.

The treatment plan for migraine might be the combination of any of the following:

1. Lifestyle changes such as avoiding migraine triggers, stress management, etc.

2. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain or migraine medications such as acetaminophen, Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), etc.

3. Taking prescription medicines usually daily to prevent or reduce the frequency of migraine headaches.

4. Take prescription migraine medicines as soon as a migraine attack starts to keep it from becoming severe and to get relief from symptoms.

5. Counselling

6. hormone therapy if the occurrence of migraine is associated with your menstrual cycle.

7. Prescription medicines to treat nausea or vomiting.

8. Alternative care including acupuncture, acupressure, meditation, etc.

Some natural remedies or home care strategies also help in treating migraine symptoms including sleeping when required, staying in a dark and quiet room, and using flexible cold masks or packs.

The effective treatment for migraine depends on several factors such as age, how often a migraine attack occurs, type of migraine, the severity of migraine, whether it has symptoms of vomiting or nausea, taking other medications, or having other health conditions.

Prevention of Migraine

In case you are diagnosed with migraine, there are ways that may help you prevent a migraine attack such as:

  • Regular exercise may help in reducing the level of stress.
  • Learn and try to implement relaxation skills.
  • Always try and work on reducing the stress level of life.
  • Understand the situations, smells, and foods that result in triggering migraine attacks, and then avoid them.
  • Never skip or compromise with the meals as much as possible.
  • Avoid or quit smoking.
  • The quality or enough sleep is helpful in migraine and for overall health
  • Focus on your hydration level as staying dehydrated may result in headaches and dizziness.

Complications of Migraine

Following are the complications of migraine:

Medication-overuse headaches

Taking painkillers too often for migraine headaches can trigger serious medication-overuse headaches. This risk appears to be highest with combinations of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine.

Overuse headaches may also happen if you consume ibuprofen or aspirin for more than 14 days a month or triptans, (sumatriptan or rizatriptan) for more than nine days a month.

Medication-overuse headaches occur when medications stop relieving pain and begin to cause headaches.

Migrainous infarction

Rarely, a complication called migrainous infarction can occur. In this complication, you have a stroke while you are having a migraine. But there isn’t any evidence that shows migraine can trigger a stroke.

Mental health problems

Migraine is also linked with a very small increased risk of mental health problems, such as:

  • Panic disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorder

Other complications Of Migraine

Migraines can have a significant impact on the quality of life of those who experience them. Migraine patients also tend to have more missed days from work than people without migraines.

In extremely rare cases, a hemiplegic migraine can sometimes lead to a coma or other serious complications.

A sudden and very severe headache can be a sign of another, more serious condition, such as a stroke or aneurysm.

Hope you have got all the information related to migraine. Remember symptoms, severity level, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment method of migraine may vary from person to person. The effective treatment for your particular condition may not be the same as for others. Consulting with a professional health care provider may help to detect the severity of the condition and proper treatment.



1) Migraine



Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. Any information associated with this article should not be considered as a substitute for prescriptions suggested by local health care professionals.


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