Common Migraine Headache Symptoms

Migraines are known for their symptoms, which are often severe and sometimes disabling. These headaches can come with tingling, flashing lights, or weird sounds. They can make you throw up or hole up in a dark room for days. Knowing the symptoms can help you understand when a headache is about to happen.

You’ll also want to talk to your doctor about what you’re feeling. Discuss what are normal migraine symptoms and what might be signs of another serious condition that requires immediate care.

What Are the Symptoms?

Migraine symptoms happen in certain stages, though you might not have them all.


A day or two before you get a migraine, you might notice:

  • A brief period of depression
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Moodiness
  • Decreased appetite
  • Constipation
  • Food cravings
  • Stiff neck
  • Yawning a lot
  • You’re thirstier and pee more


These symptoms can show up shortly before or during a headache. They usually start slowly and build. They normally last 20 minutes to an hour. You might notice:

  • Visual symptoms like flashing lights or zig-zag or wavy lines. They often start around an hour or less before the headache hits.
  • Loss of vision
  • Pins and needles feeling in an arm or leg
  • Weakness or numbness on one side of your body
  • Trouble talking
  • Hearing sounds that aren’t there
  • Movements you can’t control


This is the headache itself. Most of the time:

  • It’s usually a severe throbbing or pulsing pain.
  • It affects one side of your head or one eye.  
  • It can last from 4 to 72 hours.
  • You’re extra-sensitive to light, so much so that you may need to retreat to a darkened room.
  • You’re also sensitive to smells, sounds, and touch.
  • You might feel sick to your stomach or throw up.
  • You could get lightheaded or faint.
  • Your vision might get blurry.


This is the last phase. It usually lasts for about 24 hours after the headache ends. You might feel:

  • Elated
  • Drained and washed out
  • Confused
  • Moody
  • Dizzy
  • Sensitive to light and sound

See Your Doctor Immediately If:

  • You have abrupt, severe headaches.
  • Your headaches begin for the first time after age 50.
  • Headaches start when you’re active, straining, coughing, or having sex.
  • You have these problems and they don’t get better after the headache goes away:
    • Changes in your vision
    • A body part that is weak or you can’t move it
    • Trouble with balance and walking
  • You develop a fever or stiff neck.
  • You lose weight without trying.
  • Headaches start after an injury.
  • Headaches are more severe than or different from your regular headache pattern.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on August 12, 2019



National Headache Foundation.

Mayo Clinic: “Migraine.”

American Migraine Foundation: “Thunderclap Headache.”

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