Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team
What is a migraine?
Migraines are severe, recurring headaches.
This is a common condition which often affects younger adults (from teenagers through to middle-age), and tends to affect women more frequently than men. Migraines are usually accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light (photophobia) and sound (phonophobia). Many, but not all, people experience aura before a migraine. While numerous triggers of attacks are known, the cause of migraine is not well understood. Migraines can managed by resting and taking medications for the headache. Although many people will experience recurring migraine, most people will be able to manage their symptoms.
Migraines mostly affect younger adults (from teenagers through to middle-age). It is more common in women than in men. People who are overweight and people who smoke might be more likely to suffer migraines.
The typical symptom of a migraine is a severe headache (often on one side of the head) with nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light (photophobia) and sound (phonophobia). These symptoms of come on quickly, and usually last 6 to 12 hours. Some people might have symptoms before a migraine. These are called the aura, and may include hyperactivity, changes to the vision, tingling in hands, feet or face, or other unusual sensations. Many people feel very tired after a migraine.
Diagnosis of migraine is based on the symptoms and on a physical examination of the patient.
Many people find that lying in a dark, quiet environment helps them manage the symptoms of a migraine. Anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen, aspirin) help reduce their pain. For people who have a severe headache, triptan medications may be more helpful. People who suffer troublesome, recurrent migraines (more than two per month) may benefit from medications which reduce the frequency and severity of headaches.
Avoiding things which trigger migraines may help to prevent some headaches. These are different from person to person, but some common triggers are: emotional stress, not eating, some smells, certain weather, disturbed sleep, alcohol, smoke, etc. People who suffer troublesome, recurrent migraines (more than two per month) may benefit from medications which reduce the frequency and severity of headaches.
Other names for migraine
- Basilar-type migraine
- Familial hemiplegic migraine
- Hemiplegic migraine
- Migraine headache
- Migraine sans migraine
- Migraine with aura
- Migraine without aura
- Retinal migraine
- Sporadic hemiplegic migraine
- Typical aura with migraine headache
- Typical aura with non-migraine headache
- Typical aura without headache