Migraine - Symptoms,Treatment, Diagnosis, Stages & Causes

A migraine is a primary headache condition that is accompanied by a throbbing, painful pain, usually on one side of the head. Migraine isn’t just a bad headache; it is a neurological condition with intense neurological symptoms.

Gurneet Sawhney Created on 11th Oct, 21

Globally approximately 12% of people are affected by migraine. About 75% of migraine sufferers are women. Migraine is the third most prevalent ailment in the world.


What is Migraine?

A migraine is a primary headache condition that is accompanied by a throbbing, painful pain, usually on one side of the head. Migraine isn’t just a bad headache; it is a neurological condition with intense neurological symptoms. In rare cases, migraine attacks can affect both sides of the head.


Migraine is usually triggered by stress, hormones and sometimes the environment. Migraine is recurrent and can either be moderate or severe. Usually, a migraine attack lasts between 4 to 72 hours.


Chronic migraine is one of the most common causes of disability. Migraine attacks can affect a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks. Migraine is prevalent in people suffering from asthma, depression, anxiety and neurologic disorder.



Migraine attacks can’t be cured; however, treatments can help to manage them so that they appear less often and with less intensity. Many treatment plans are available; you must find the one or combination that is a good fit. Knowing how to prevent them can often be the first step in managing migraines.


The treatment plan may depend on:

  • Age
  • Type of migraine
  • Level of severity
  • Duration
  • Symptoms experienced
  • Other health conditions present

To treat migraine one or more of the following can be combined:

  • The doctor may prescribe migraine medications that you take every day to help prevent migraines.
  • The most commonly prescribed are triptans like Maxalt, Relpax, Frova, Amerge, etc.
  • Your doctor may also prescribe migraine medication (s) that you take at the onset of a headache to keep it from becoming severe.
  • Medications to help with nausea and vomiting.
  • Stress management.
  • Over-the-counter pain medicines such as ibuprofen, aspirin and paracetamol.
  • Counselling
  • Hormone therapy, if migraine occurs with the menstrual cycle.
  • Therapy biofeedback techniques to help reduce triggers, such as stress.

What are the signs and symptoms of migraine?

  1. Nausea
  2. Vomiting
  3. Numbness or tingling in the face, legs or arms
  4. Sensitivity to light touch and smell
  5. Sensitivity to sound
  6. Blurred vision
  7. Pain on one side of the head
  8. Dizziness

In children’s symptoms may include:

  1. Regular and forceful vomiting
  2. Involuntary eye movements
  3. Behavioural changes


  • Migraine is usually diagnosed by taking a thorough medical and family history; the doctor may as well listen to your symptoms.
  • A physical examination can be carried out to rule out other potential causes of headaches.
  • Imaging scans such as a CT scan or MRI can be used to check for a brain tumour, abnormal brain structures and if there is bleeding into the brain.

Stages of A Migraine Attack:

In general, there are four stages of a migraine attack:


(i) Prodrome:

About 60% of patients experience prodrome. Although in fact, many of them do not realize it. Prodromal symptoms include hyperactivity, decreased ability to sleep, frequent urination, craving for certain foods, sluggishness, yawning, sensitivity to light or sound.


(ii) Aura:

The second phase is the Aura. Many doctors also think you need to have an Aura to have a migraine headache in fact Aura is relatively rare. Only about 20% of migraine suffers experience the Aura.


Aura is a transient or a short-lived disturbance in some function in the neurologic ability. Usually, it is a visual disturbance so people will see sparkling lights, or shooting stars, or zig-zag lines that blot out their vision.


(iii) Headache:

The next stage of migraine is the headache. The typical symptom of a migraine headache is a one-sided headache. It tends to be throbbing or pounding, moderate to severe in intensity. 


But it is not just the head pain that makes the headache of migraine a migraine. People during migraine experience nausea. They may vomit, they may have a sensitivity to light, or to sound, or to smell.


(iv) Postdrome:

The last stage of migraine is called the postdrome. It is a vague sensation, almost like a hangover where your body aches. You have a limited ability to think, to eat, to act normally, and you are still just not yourself.


Taken in total, the entire complex of migraine can last as short as four hours which is pretty long to as long as three to four days. If you suffer from migraine, you are not alone. Migraine affects about 11% of the country or more than 30 million Indians.


What are the causes of migraine?

Causes may include:

  • Particular activity in the nerves and blood vessels of the brain.
  • Family history-Children with either one parent or both parents are at a higher risk of having a migraine.
  • Stress, lack of food or sleep.
  • Hormonal changes in women, especially during menstruation.
  • Anxiety
  • Exposure to light or severe heat.
  • Alcohol use
  • Travelling
  • Unusual smells
  • Certain foods
  • Use of specific medications such as oral contraceptives
  • Smoking
  • Intense physical activity
  • Loud sounds

If you think you are one of those migraine sufferers, you should call your doctor, and if necessary, you refer to a neurologist, neurosurgeon or another headache specialist.



Relevant Questions

Q. For what reasons do people develop speech problems?

Speech problems can be because of:

  • Local problems i.e. oro motor muscle issues called Dysarthria
  • Central causes i.e. brain-related issues called Dysphasia.
Read more

Q. What factors make you prone to stroke?

  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Heart condition
  • Hyper homocysteinemia. 
Read more

Q. What treatment can cure my mother from her migraine?

Migraine has a 2-step treatment 

  • 1st – Intensive treatment
  • 2nd – Long term treatment
Read more

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