Migraine - symptoms and causes (2023)


What is a migraine? Mayo Clinic expert explains

Learning about a migraine disorder can be scary. Dr. Amaal Starling, a Mayo Clinic neurologist, provides facts, questions, and answers to better understand this condition.

Hi, I'm Dr. Amaal Starling, a Mayo Clinic neurologist specializing in headache disorders. In this video, we'll cover the basics of migraines. What is this? Who gets sick, symptoms, diagnosis and most importantly treatment. Whether you're looking for answers for yourself or someone you love, we're here to provide you with the best information available. There are many stigmas of migraines. That it's just a headache and that it's nothing terrible. But migraine is a genetic neurological disease. It affects each person differently with a wide range of disease severity. Some have infrequent seizures, but others may have frequent, disabling seizures. It is never good advice to wait for someone to push you or just snap you.

Who gets it?

Migraine is very common, affecting one in five women, one in 16 men and even one in 11 children. Migraine attacks are three times more common in women, possibly due to hormonal differences. Of course, genetic and environmental factors play a role in the development of migraines. And because it's genetic, it's hereditary. Which means if a parent has migraines, there's about a 50 percent chance that the child will also get migraines. If you have a migraine, certain factors can trigger an attack. However, that doesn't mean that if you have a migraine attack it's their fault that you should feel guilt or shame about your symptoms. Hormonal changes, especially the fluctuations and estrogens that can occur during menstruation, pregnancy and perimenopause, can trigger a migraine attack. Other known triggers include certain medications, drinking alcohol, especially red wine, excessive caffeine intake, and stress. Sensory stimulation, such as bright lights or strong smells. Sleep changes, weather changes, skipping meals, and even certain foods like mature cheeses and processed foods.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptom of a migraine is a severe, throbbing headache. This pain can be so severe that it interferes with daily activities. It may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, as well as hypersensitivity to light and sound. However, a migraine can look very different from person to person. Some people may experience prodromal symptoms, the onset of a migraine attack. These can be subtle warnings such as constipation, mood swings, cravings for food, a stiff neck, increased urination, or even frequent yawning. Sometimes people may not even realize that these are warning signs of a migraine attack. In about a third of people living with migraine, the aura may occur before or even during a migraine attack. Aura is the term we use to describe these temporarily reversible neurological symptoms. They are usually visual but may include other neurological symptoms. They usually accumulate within minutes and can last up to an hour. Examples of migraine auras include visual phenomena such as seeing geometric shapes or bright dots or flashes of light, or even loss of vision. Some people may experience numbness or tingling on one side of their face or body, or even difficulty speaking. At the end of a migraine attack, you may feel exhausted, confused, or exhausted for up to a day. This is called the metamorphic phase.

How is the diagnosis done?

Migraine is a clinical diagnosis. This means that the diagnosis is made on the basis of the symptoms reported by the patient. There is no lab test or imaging test that can rule out or rule out migraine. Based on the screening diagnostic criteria, if you have headache symptoms related to light sensitivity, decreased function, and nausea, you likely have a migraine. See your doctor for a possible migraine diagnosis and specific migraine treatment.

(Video) Dr. Shivananda Pai | Migraine - Symptoms & Causes | Manipal Hospitals India

How is it treated?

Because there is such a wide range of severity for migraine, there is also a wide range of management plans. Some people need what is known as acute or rescue treatment for infrequent migraine attacks. While other people need both acute and preventive treatment. Preventive treatment reduces the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. These can be daily oral medications, monthly injections, or even injections and infusions administered once every three months. The right medications, combined with lifestyle changes, can help improve the quality of life for people living with migraines. There are ways to manage migraine triggers and minimize them with the SEEDS method. S is for sleeping. Improve your sleep routine by sticking to a specific schedule, limit screens and distractions at night. E is for exercise. Start small, just five minutes once a week, and slowly increase the duration and frequency so that it becomes a habit. And stick to movement and activities you enjoy. E means eating healthy, well-balanced meals at least three times a day and staying hydrated. D is for the calendar. Keep track of migraine days and symptoms in a diary. Use a calendar, planner or app. Take this diary with you to your doctor's appointment for review. S stands for stress management to help manage stress-induced migraine attacks. Consider therapy, mindfulness, biofeedback, and other relaxation techniques that work for you.

What now?

Migraine attacks can be debilitating, but there are ways to manage and empower yourself to get the care and support you need. First. We need to end the stigma of migraine. It's not just a headache, it's a genetic neurological disease. Then talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Eliminate the words "it's okay" from your vocabulary and be honest with your healthcare professional, employer and loved ones about how you are feeling and what kind of support you need. Make this your priority when you have a migraine attack and reduce the likelihood of an attack by adjusting your lifestyle. Have a consistent schedule, get enough sleep, and learn strategies to deal with life's stress through mindfulness and meditation. Empower yourself to manage your migraines with lifestyle changes and special migraine treatment options. You and your doctor can manage your migraine. If you want to learn more about migraines, watch other related videos or visit mayoclinic.org. We wish you well.

A migraine is a headache that can cause severe throbbing or throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head. It is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks can last from hours to days, and the pain can be so severe that it interferes with daily activities.

For some people, a warning symptom called an aura comes before or with a headache. The aura may include visual disturbances such as flashes of light or blind spots, or other disturbances such as tingling on one side of the face or an arm or leg and slurred speech.

Medications can prevent some migraines and make them less painful. Appropriate medications in conjunction with self-help treatments and lifestyle changes can help.


Migraines, which affect both children and adolescents and adults, can develop in four phases: prodromal, aura, onset, and aftershock. Not everyone who gets migraines goes through all the stages.

(Video) Migraines 101: Symptoms


A day or two before a migraine, you may notice subtle changes that warn you of an impending migraine, such as:

  • Prison
  • Mood swings, from depression to euphoria
  • Craving for food
  • Neck numbness
  • Increased urination
  • Fluid retention
  • Frequent yawning


For some people, the aura may occur before or during a migraine. Auras are reversible symptoms of the nervous system. They are usually visual but may include other disorders. Each symptom usually starts gradually, develops over a few minutes and can last up to 60 minutes.

Examples of migraine headaches include:

  • Visual phenomena such as seeing different shapes, bright spots or flashes of light
  • Loss of sight
  • Tingling sensation in the arm or leg
  • Weakness or numbness of the face or one side of the body
  • Difficulty speaking


Migraines usually last from 4 to 72 hours if left untreated. The frequency of migraines varies from person to person. Migraines can occur sporadically or several times a month.

During a migraine you may have:

  • Pain usually on one side of the head, but often on both sides
  • Throbbing or throbbing pain
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and sometimes smell and touch
  • Nausea and vomiting


After a migraine attack, you may feel exhausted, confused, and washed-out for up to a day. Some people report feeling excited. Sudden head movements can cause pain for a short time.

When to see a doctor

Migraines are often undiagnosed and untreated. If you have regular migraine signs and symptoms, write down your attacks and how you manage them. Then make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your headaches.

Even if you have a history of headaches, contact your doctor if the pattern changes or your headaches suddenly change.

Contact your doctor immediately or go to the emergency roomif you have any of the following symptoms, which may indicate a more serious medical problem:

  • A sudden, severe headache like lightning
  • Headache with fever, neck stiffness, confusion, convulsions, double vision, numbness or weakness in any part of the body, which may be signs of a stroke
  • Headache after a head injury
  • Chronic headache that gets worse after coughing, straining, straining, or sudden movement
  • New headache after 50

More information

  • Treating migraine at the Mayo Clinic
  • Migraines and Gastrointestinal Problems: Is There a Link?

Request an appointment

(Video) What Is a Migraine Headache?

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(Video) Sinus Headaches: Causes & Treatment


Although the causes of migraine are not fully understood, genetic and environmental factors appear to play a role.

Changes in the brainstem and its interaction with the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway, may be involved. As well as an imbalance in brain chemistry - including serotonin, which helps regulate pain in the nervous system.

Researchers are investigating the role of serotonin in migraines. Other neurotransmitters play a role in migraine pain, including calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP).

Migraine triggers

There are several factors that trigger a migraine, including:

  • Hormonal changes in women.Fluctuations in estrogen levels, such as before or during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, seem to trigger headaches in many women.

    Hormonal medications, such as oral contraceptives, can also make migraines worse. However, some women find that their migraines occur less often when they take these medications.

  • Alkohol free drinks.These include alcohol, especially wine, and too much caffeine, such as coffee.
  • stress.Stress at work or at home can trigger migraines.
  • Sensory stimuli.Bright or flashing lights can trigger migraines, as can loud noises. Strong odors - such as perfume, second-hand smoke, and others - trigger migraines in some people.
  • Sleep changes.Lack of sleep or too much sleep can trigger migraines in some people.
  • Natural factors.Vigorous physical activity, including sexual activity, can trigger migraines.
  • Weather changes.A change in weather or barometric pressure can trigger a migraine.
  • Medicines.Oral contraceptives and vasodilators such as nitroglycerin can make migraines worse.
  • Food.Aged cheeses and salty and processed foods can trigger migraines. Like skipping meals.
  • Food additives.These include the sweetener aspartame and the preservative monosodium glutamate (MSG), which is found in many foods.

More information

  • Treating migraine at the Mayo Clinic
  • Migraines: Are They Caused by Weather Changes?
  • Mayo Clinic Minute Weathering migrena

Risk factors

Several factors make you more prone to migraines, including:

  • family history.If you have a family member with migraine, you have a high chance of getting it too.
  • Dob.Migraines can start at any age, although they often first appear during adolescence. Migraines usually peak in your 30s and gradually become less severe and less frequent over the following decades.
  • Six.Women are three times more likely to experience migraines than men.
  • Hormonal changes.For women who experience migraines, headaches may begin shortly before or shortly after the onset of menstruation. They can also change during pregnancy or menopause. Migraines generally go away after menopause.


Taking painkillers too often can cause severe headaches due to drug overuse. The risk appears to be greater with the combination of aspirin, acetaminophen and caffeine. Overuse headaches can also occur if you take aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) for more than 14 days in a month or triptans, sumatriptan (Imitrex, Tosymra) or rizatriptan (Maxalt, Maxalt-MLT) for more than nine days in one month .

Medication overuse headaches occur when medications stop relieving pain and start causing headaches. Then you use more painkillers, which continues the cycle.

(Video) Migraine Headache Signs & Symptoms (Prodrome, Aura, Headache, and Postdrome)

Mayo Clinic personnel


What is the main cause of migraine? ›

The exact cause of migraines is unknown. They're thought to be the result of abnormal brain activity temporarily affecting nerve signals, chemicals and blood vessels in the brain. Around half of all people who experience migraines have a close relative with the condition. This suggests that genes may play a role.

What are 2 common symptoms of migraine? ›

Symptoms of a migraine attack may include heightened sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, auras (loss of vision in one eye or tunnel vision), difficulty of speech and intense pain predominating on one side of the head. One theory of the cause of migraine is a central nervous system (CNS) disorder.

What are three causes of migraine? ›

Causes of migraines
  • starting their period.
  • anxiety and depression.
  • stress and tiredness.
  • not eating regularly or skipping meals.
  • too much caffeine.
  • not getting enough exercise.

How do you know when a migraine is serious? ›

One of the most common signs that a migraine may be serious is when it lasts for more than three days without responding to treatment. Other warning signs and when to know if a migraine is seriuous include: Intense, continuous nausea and vomiting. High fever.

How do you make a migraine go away? ›

Find a calm environment
  1. Turn off the lights. Light and sound can make migraine pain worse. Relax in a dark, quiet room. ...
  2. Try temperature therapy. Apply hot or cold compresses to your head or neck. ...
  3. Sip a caffeinated drink. In small amounts, caffeine alone can relieve migraine pain in the early stages.

Can dehydration cause migraines? ›

People who aren't hydrated have a higher risk of heat exhaustion and other heat illness. Dehydration can trigger (cause) a migraine headache. If you get migraines, it's essential to drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated may help you prevent a migraine attack.

What are the 4 stages of a migraine? ›

Migraines, which often begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood, can progress through four stages: prodrome, aura, attack and post-drome. Not everyone who has migraines goes through all stages.

What happens in the brain during a migraine? ›

One aspect of migraine pain theory explains that migraine pain happens due to waves of activity by groups of excitable brain cells. These trigger chemicals, such as serotonin, to narrow blood vessels. Serotonin is a chemical that's needed for nerve cells to communicate.

Can stress cause migraines? ›

Stress as a trigger for migraine attackes is present in nearly 70% of individuals 13. High levels of stress are reported in migraine patients, particularly in those suffering from chronic daily migraine 14.

What foods are migraine triggers? ›

Migraine Trigger Foods
  • Foods that have tyramine in them, such as aged cheeses (like blue cheese or Parmesan), smoked fish, and Chianti wine.
  • Alcohol, especially red wine.
  • Caffeine, which is in coffee, tea, colas, and other sodas.
  • Foods made with nitrates, such as pepperoni, hot dogs, and lunch meats.
  • Dried fruits.

What type of migraine is the most serious? ›

Sometimes called an intractable migraine, status migrainosus is a very serious and very rare migraine variant. It typically causes migraine attacks so severe and long lasting — typically more than 72 hours — that you must be hospitalized.

What is the most serious migraine? ›

Status migrainosus.

This is a rare and severe type of migraine that can last longer than 72 hours. The headache pain and nausea can be extremely bad. Certain medications, or medication withdrawal, can cause you to have this type of migraine.

How long is too long for a migraine? ›

How long is too long? If a migraine headache lasts longer than 72 hours without responding to regular migraine medication, the person may need additional treatment. Anyone who has experienced this pain for longer than 3 days should speak with a doctor as soon as they can.

How long should a migraine last? ›

An entire migraine attack—including prodrome, aura, headache and postdrome—may last anywhere from a bit more than one day to slightly more than a week at its very longest, though this is not typical. Most typically, a migraine attack will last for one to two days.

Should you sleep with a migraine? ›

Many people find that sleep helps to ease their symptoms if they're having a migraine attack. Even sleeping for just an hour or two can be beneficial. Sleep also appears to be particularly good at helping children recover from a migraine attack.

What foods help migraines? ›

Discover 11 foods that can help migraines go away
  • Spinach could help migraines go away. This dark leafy green vegetable is particularly rich in magnesium. ...
  • Kale might help migraineurs. ...
  • Collard, mustard, and turnip greens. ...
  • Almonds. ...
  • Avocados. ...
  • Dark Chocolate. ...
  • Fatty fish. ...
  • Flax seeds.

What should I eat when I have a migraine? ›

Foods rich in magnesium include dark leafy greens, avocado, and tuna. Omega-3 fatty acids: Research indicates that increasing omega-3 fatty acids may help people with migraine. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include fish, such as mackerel and salmon, seeds, and legumes.

Does Tylenol help migraines? ›

Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or a combination of acetaminophen, aspirin, and caffeine (Excedrin Migraine) can sometimes help ease migraine headaches. It's best to take one of these as soon as you feel a migraine coming on.

Does drinking lots of water help migraines? ›

One of the benefits of staying hydrated is that it helps to reduce the frequency of migraine attacks. This is because dehydration (which happens when too much fluid leaves our body) is often recorded as a trigger of headaches.

How do I know if I have a migraine or just a headache? ›

The easiest way to distinguish a headache from a migraine is by the severity. Unlike headaches, which range from dull to acute pain, migraines are often so debilitating that the acronym POUND is sometimes used to summarize key migraine signs and symptoms.

Can lack of electrolytes cause migraines? ›

Electrolytes are responsible for maintaining the fluid levels in your body. If you don't have the right balance of electrolytes in your body, you aren't able to retain enough water and can then get dehydrated—which can then trigger a migraine attack.

What happens in the brain before a migraine? ›

At the start of a migraine, an external or internal trigger causes neurons in the brain to fire abnormally. These triggers are vast and varied, and include lack of sleep, increase in stress, dietary choices, strong scents, shift in weather, or hormonal changes during a woman's menstrual cycle.

What is silent migraine? ›

“Migraine aura without headache”—previously known as “acephalgic migraine” and sometimes called “silent migraine”—is when someone has a migraine aura without any head pain. Despite a lack of head pain, migraine aura without headache is still disabling for those who live with it.

Why does throwing up relieve migraines? ›

According to a 2013 review paper, vomiting may help with migraine headache symptoms, because it: changes blood flow to reduce pain or inflammation. releases chemicals that ease pain, such as endorphins. occurs toward the end of a migraine episode, leading to a reduction in symptoms.

What is a migraine that won't go away? ›

Intractable migraine, also known as status migrainosus, is a severe migraine headache that lasts for longer than 72 hours. The defining characteristic of this type of migraine is its duration.

Does stress cause migraines? ›

Stress as a trigger for migraine attackes is present in nearly 70% of individuals 13. High levels of stress are reported in migraine patients, particularly in those suffering from chronic daily migraine 14.

What foods are good for migraines? ›

Foods rich in magnesium include dark leafy greens, avocado, and tuna. Omega-3 fatty acids: Research indicates that increasing omega-3 fatty acids may help people with migraine. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include fish, such as mackerel and salmon, seeds, and legumes.

How long does a migraine last? ›

An entire migraine attack—including prodrome, aura, headache and postdrome—may last anywhere from a bit more than one day to slightly more than a week at its very longest, though this is not typical. Most typically, a migraine attack will last for one to two days.

Why do migraines make you tired? ›

Researchers believe the fatigue that often accompanies migraine is not because of the toll pain takes on us. Rather, the evidence points to fatigue being part of migraine pathophysiology, which is defined as the functional bodily changes produced by the disease.

Should I go to the ER if my migraine won't go away? ›

Severe Migraines Deserve an ER Visit

Go to the ER if you are experiencing severe migraine symptoms, or symptoms such as confusion, fever and vision changes, neck stiffness, trouble speaking or numbness or weakness, even if other symptoms of migraine are present (e.g. light sensitivity, nausea).

What is a migraine called that lasts for days? ›

Status migrainosus is a headache that doesn't respond to usual treatment or lasts longer than 72 hours. It is a relentless migraine attack that can require medical attention and sometimes a visit to the hospital. Thankfully, most of the time, treatment options are available to stop the pain and help you recover.

How do I know my migraine is not a tumor? ›

Brain tumor headaches cause intense pain that people may confuse with migraine or tension-type headaches. However, brain tumors cause other symptoms in addition to headaches, including: fatigue. weakness.


1. Migraines 101: Causes and Treatments
(Cleveland Clinic Martin Health)
2. Migraine headache symptoms treatment | Migraine attack symptoms and relief
(Shomu's Biology)
3. What is migraine? Migraine headache symptoms and trigger made easy
5. Migraine Headache (Overview) | Pathophysiology, Triggers, Phases, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment
(JJ Medicine)
6. The Ultimate Guide to Migraine Headaches: Top 10 Causes Explained
(Doctor Mike Hansen)


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