Migraine Symptoms

Last Updated: May 1, 2022

Migraine headaches are usually one-sided (sometimes bilateral) head pain. They affect women more often than men, and can have a number of triggers, and are more common if you have a family member with migraines. They can be distinguished from other types of headaches (such as tension or cluster headaches) due to additional symptoms of nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and worsening of pain with activity.

What is a migraine headache?

Migraine headaches usually present as one-sided throbbing head pain, along with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine is very common and rated as the third most common reason for disability in both men and women younger than 50 years of age.[1]

There are two major types of migraine: with or without an aura. Between 25-30% of people with migraine will experience auras, which are neurological symptoms (such as visual disturbances) that occur before, during, or after the migraine itself.[1] Migraine can be debilitating and disruptive to a person’s life. However, the symptoms are transient, and do not result in permanent physical disability. That said, migraine is associated with a 2-3 fold increase in risk of various types of stroke. This is why it is especially important not to self-diagnose and to really figure out if you may have migraine or not.

How is a migraine diagnosed?

Usually, a headache with additional symptoms of sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and worsening with physical activity is most suggestive of a migraine. A migraine with aura involves reversible neurological symptoms that can be visual or sensory (e.g.: flashing lights, zig-zag lines, foggy vision).[2]

What are some of the main medical treatments for migraine?

In patients with acute migraine, first line treatments usually include two classes of medicines: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and triptans. Examples of NSAIDS are ibuprofen and naproxen, and examples of triptans are sumatriptan and rizatriptan.[3].

When these treatments are not enough to treat the migraine or when migraines still occur too often, preventative treatments may be prescribed.[4]. These can include antiseizure, blood pressure,and antidepressant medications. Consult with your health care provider about what treatments are right for you.

Have any supplements been studied for migraine?

Many supplements have been studied for migraine prevention and some seem to have some benefit. Some examples include riboflavin (vitamin B2), magnesium, coenzyme Q10, butterbur, melatonin.[5]

What's the connection between diet and migraine?

Certain foods such as cheese, chocolate and wine are thought to trigger migraine in some people. However, food-elimination diets have yielded mixed results for reducing migraine frequency. Specific dietary modifications such as the ketogenic diet, the DASH diet, low-fat diet have been studied for migraine prevention, but it is unclear if they help.[6]

Are there any other treatments for migraine?

Many non-medical treatments have been studied for preventing migraine by reducing stress. Some of these treatments include meditation, mindfulness, biofeedback, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), yoga, and hypnosis.[5]

What causes migraine?

Migraine triggers differ from person to person. Daily headache journals are recommended to be better able to identify specific triggers. Some commonly identified triggers include alcohol, caffeine, fatigue, menstruation, certain foods (e.g.: cheese or chocolate), missed meals, smoke, stress, and weather changes.[4]

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  1. ^
  2. ^Headache Classification Committee of the International Headache Society (IHS) The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd edition.Cephalalgia.(2018-Jan)
  3. ^Laura Mayans, Anne WallingAcute Migraine Headache: Treatment StrategiesAm Fam Physician.(2018 Feb 15)
  4. ^Hien Ha, Annika GonzalezMigraine Headache ProphylaxisAm Fam Physician.(2019 Jan 1)
  5. ^Palak S Patel, Mia T MinenComplementary and Integrative Health Treatments for MigraineJ Neuroophthalmol.(2019 Sep)
  6. ^Parisa GazeraniMigraine and DietNutrients.(2020 Jun 3)
Examine Database References
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  3. L-Carnitine - Ali Tarighat Esfanjani, Reza Mahdavi, Mehrangiz Ebrahimi Mameghani, Mahnaz Talebi, Zeinab Nikniaz, Abdolrasool SafaiyanThe effects of magnesium, L-carnitine, and concurrent magnesium-L-carnitine supplementation in migraine prophylaxisBiol Trace Elem Res.(2012 Dec)
  4. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) - Condò M, Posar A, Arbizzani A, Parmeggiani ARiboflavin prophylaxis in pediatric and adolescent migraineJ Headache Pain.(2009 Oct)
  5. Coenzyme Q10 - Dahri M, Hashemilar M, Asghari-Jafarabadi M, Tarighat-Esfanjani AEfficacy of coenzyme Q10 for the prevention of migraine in women: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studyEur J Integr Med.()
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  7. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) - C Di Lorenzo, F Pierelli, G Coppola, G S Grieco, C Rengo, M Ciccolella, D Magis, M Bolla, C Casali, F M Santorelli, J SchoenenMitochondrial DNA haplogroups influence the therapeutic response to riboflavin in migraineursNeurology.(2009 May 5)
  8. Feverfew - Johnson ES, Kadam NP, Hylands DM, Hylands PJEfficacy of feverfew as prophylactic treatment of migraineBr Med J (Clin Res Ed).(1985 Aug 31)
  9. Feverfew - Pfaffenrath V, Diener HC, Fischer M, Friede M, Henneicke-von Zepelin HH; InvestigatorsThe efficacy and safety of Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew) in migraine prophylaxis--a double-blind, multicentre, randomized placebo-controlled dose-response studyCephalalgia.(2002 Sep)
  10. Feverfew - Murphy JJ, Heptinstall S, Mitchell JRRandomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial of feverfew in migraine preventionLancet.(1988 Jul 23)
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  12. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) - Bruijn J, Duivenvoorden H, Passchier J, Locher H, Dijkstra N, Arts WFMedium-dose riboflavin as a prophylactic agent in children with migraine: a preliminary placebo-controlled, randomised, double-blind, cross-over trialCephalalgia.(2010 Dec)
  13. Coenzyme Q10 - Parohan M, Sarraf P, Javanbakht MH, Foroushani AR, Ranji-Burachaloo S, Djalali MThe synergistic effects of nano-curcumin and coenzyme Q10 supplementation in migraine prophylaxis: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trialNutr Neurosci.(2019 Jun 26)
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  15. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) - Boehnke C, Reuter U, Flach U, Schuh-Hofer S, Einhäupl KM, Arnold GHigh-dose riboflavin treatment is efficacious in migraine prophylaxis: an open study in a tertiary care centreEur J Neurol.(2004 Jul)
  16. Melatonin - Alstadhaug KB, Odeh F, Salvesen R, Bekkelund SIProphylaxis of migraine with melatonin: a randomized controlled trialNeurology.(2010 Oct 26)
  17. Feverfew - Diener HC, Pfaffenrath V, Schnitker J, Friede M, Henneicke-von Zepelin HHEfficacy and safety of 6.25 mg t.i.d. feverfew CO2-extract (MIG-99) in migraine prevention--a randomized, double-blind, multicentre, placebo-controlled studyCephalalgia.(2005 Nov)
  18. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) - Schoenen J, Jacquy J, Lenaerts MEffectiveness of high-dose riboflavin in migraine prophylaxis. A randomized controlled trialNeurology.(1998 Feb)
  19. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) - Maizels M, Blumenfeld A, Burchette RA combination of riboflavin, magnesium, and feverfew for migraine prophylaxis: a randomized trialHeadache.(2004 Oct)
  20. Lavender - Sasannejad P, Saeedi M, Shoeibi A, Gorji A, Abbasi M, Foroughipour MLavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trialEur Neurol.(2012)
  21. Magnesium - Köseoglu E, Talaslioglu A, Gönül AS, Kula MThe effects of magnesium prophylaxis in migraine without auraMagnes Res.(2008 Jun)
  22. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) - MacLennan SC, Wade FM, Forrest KM, Ratanayake PD, Fagan E, Antony JHigh-dose riboflavin for migraine prophylaxis in children: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trialJ Child Neurol.(2008 Nov)
  23. Magnesium - Hsiao-Yean Chiu, Tu-Hsueh Yeh, Yin-Cheng Huang, Pin-Yuan ChenEffects of Intravenous and Oral Magnesium on Reducing Migraine: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled TrialsPain Physician.(2016 Jan)