Many people think that a migraine is just a bad headache but it is much more serious than this; a migraine is a severe headache which also causes unpleasant symptoms including nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to noise and light; according to the Migraine Action Association, migraines are the most common neurological condition in the developed world. Migraines can cause people severe pain, as well as disrupting their normal routine and causing them to take time off work, school or college; many people suffer from recurrent migraines, which can make a real difference to their quality of life. Migraines may last up to 72 hours.

Migraines are a common condition; they affect a quarter of women and roughly 1 in 12 men. Migraines may develop in different stages (although not all patients will experience all of the stages); the stages include:

  1. Prodromal (pre-headache): this can occur a number of days or hours before the migraine comes on; patients may experience changes in mood, changes in appetite, muscular aches and pains and a lack of energy.
  2. Aura stage: during this stage an individual may experience blurred vision, seeing spots of lights and flashes of light. Aura symptoms usually last between 15 minutes and 1 hour. Roughly 1 in 6 people that suffer from migraines experience aura symptoms.
  3. Headache stage: during this stage the individual will experience a severe headache; pain may be concentrated in a certain area in the head (usually on one side). During this stage, the individual may also experience nausea, vomiting and heightened sensitivity to light and noise (many people prefer to lie in a dark room when they have a migraine). The headache stage may last anywhere between 4 and 72 hours.
  4. Resolution stage: during this stage the headache starts to die away and other symptoms subside.
  5. Postdromal stage: this occurs when the migraine has gone; the individual may feel tired and drained.

There are two main types of migraine; these include:

  1. Classical migraine: a classical migraine includes the aura stage.
  2. Common migraine: a common migraine does not include the aura stage.

Guide to Migraine


What causes migraines?

The NHS migraine clinic

What are the symptoms of a migraine?

Which treatments are available for migraine sufferers?

Should I see my doctor?