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Migraine Headaches - Symptoms

The most common symptom of a migraine headache is a throbbing pain on one side of your head. You also may have other symptoms before, during, and after a migraine. Different people have different symptoms.

Symptoms before the migraine begins

A day or two before a migraine starts, you may feel:

  • Depressed or cranky.
  • Very happy, very awake, or full of energy.
  • Restless or nervous.
  • Very sleepy.
  • Thirsty or hungry, or you may crave certain foods. Or you may not feel like eating.

Symptoms of an aura

About 1 out of 5 people has a warning sign of a migraine called an aura. It usually starts about 30 minutes before the headache starts. During an aura, you may:

  • See spots, wavy lines, or flashing lights.
  • Have numbness or a "pins-and-needles" feeling in your hands, arms, or face.

Symptoms when the headache starts

Symptoms can include:

  • Throbbing pain on one side of the head. But you can have pain on both sides.
  • Pain behind one of your eyes.
  • Moderate to very bad pain. The pain may be so bad that you can't do any of your usual activities.
  • Pain that gets worse with routine physical activity.
  • Nausea, vomiting, or both.
  • Pain that gets worse when you're around light, noise, and sometimes smells.

Less common symptoms include:

  • Problems speaking.
  • Tingling in your face, arms, and shoulders.
  • Short-term weakness on one side of your body.

If you have these less-common symptoms and have not had them before, call your doctor right away so that he or she can make sure you aren't having a transient ischemic attack (TIA), stroke, or other serious problem.

Without treatment, a migraine headache can last from 4 to 72 hours.

Symptoms after the headache

After the headache stops, you may have muscle aches or feel very tired. These symptoms may last up to a day after your migraine ends.

Types of migraines and their symptoms

You may have one or more types of migraine headache. Each type has its own features. For example, some people get migraines with an aura. Some get them without an aura. Some women get menstrual migraines, which happen before, during, or shortly after their menstrual period.

It can be hard to tell the difference between a migraine and another type of headache, such as a tension or sinus headache. You may think that you have sinus headaches. But it's more likely that they are migraine headaches if they happen often and interfere with your daily life.

Migraines can occur along with many other health problems, such as asthma or depression. More serious conditions, such as tumors or infections, can also cause migraine symptoms. But most headaches are not caused by serious health problems.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 10, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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