What Kind of Migraine Is It?

Early Migraine Signs

Some people get a clue (called a prodrome) that a migraine is imminent. Signs include:

  • Mood changes, excitability, irritability
  • Depression
  • Fatigue and yawning
  • Muscle tension

Signs may occur as early as 1 or 2 days before the headache. Practice recognizing early signs. Your efforts may help you abort a headache.

Most common types of migraine are

  • Migraine without aura: one sided pain, pulsating, increased pain with activity, nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity
  • Migraine with aura: same pain symptoms but also with fully reversible auras (described above)

Vision Problems: Retinal Migraine

Often, temporary vision loss or distortion in one eye occurs with retinal migraine, which is rare. Retinal migraines are usually harmless. They last a few minutes, then normal vision returns. However, other serious conditions can cause sudden loss of vision in one eye, so see a doctor immediately if you have vision changes.

Unsteadiness and Vertigo: Migraine With Brainstem Aura

Migraine with Brainstem Aura is an uncommon form of migraine (used to be called basilar type migraine). Some people who get these migraines also have unsteadiness, dizzinessvertigo and difficulty speaking. Be sure to talk with your doctor about it.

Dizziness from migraines may make you feel lightheaded or unsteady. Vertigo makes you feel as if the room is spinning. It's often related to changes in your inner ear. 

Muscle Weakness: Hemiplegic Migraine

It's very rare, but some people get a type of migraine that causes severe muscle weakness or paralysis on one side of the body. It's called a hemiplegic migraine. Symptoms are very similar to a stroke but cause no permanent nerve damage.

Still, don't diagnose yourself! If you have symptoms of hemiplegic migraine, get immediate medical help to rule out stroke.

Ongoing Pain: Status Migrainosus

Don't try to endure a seemingly unending migraine. Ongoing pain -- pain that lasts longer than 3 days -- is a trait of status migrainosus. It can be caused by some medications or medication withdrawal.

The pain and nausea from this type of migraine can be so intense that you may need hospital care. So don't suffer long-lasting migraine without help. Seek medical care.


Ophthalmoplegic Migraine

If you have pain and weakness around your eye, you need medical help right away. Rare symptoms like these may be due to ophthalmoplegic migraine -- what's now known as a neuralgia -- or a more serious condition. Ophthalmoplegic migraines often last a week and may cause a droopy eyelid, double vision, and other eye changes.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have the following migraine symptoms:

  • A change in frequency, severity, or features from your usual migraine
  • A headache that lasts for days, getting progressively worse
  • A headache brought on by coughing, sneezing, bearing down, or straining while on the toilet

Emergency Symptoms

Call 911 or go to a hospital emergency department if you have any of the following:

  • The worst headache ever, especially if the headache came on very quickly
  • Headache associated with head injury
  • Head injury with loss of consciousness
  • Fever or stiff neck with a headache
  • Decreased level of consciousness or confusion
  • Paralysis or weakness 
  • Seizure
  • Change in vision
  • Loss of vision
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 28, 2018



American Headache Society.

American Migraine Foundation.

National Headache Foundation.

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